By Bernard Tolani Dada, Uyo
The Akwa Ibom State government has said that the choice of location of the Ibom Deep Seaport project and Industrial City was determined by its viability and accessibility and not sentiments.
The state Commissioner for Economic Development and Ibom Deep Seaport, Mr Akan Okon, told journalists in Uyo on Friday that different locations were accessed by experts before the location which transversed both Mbo and Ibeno local government areas was selected.
Okon’s explanation followed series of allegations by section of Oro people that the ‘original site’ of the seaport at Ibaka Bay was moved to another location due to sentiments against the people of Oron by other groups in the state.
But the commissioner said that the explanation on the choice of the approved location becomes necessary in order to educate and disabuse the minds of agitators and ensure a peaceful environment for the developement of the seaport by core investors.
He maintained that government cannot afford to be sentimental on a project of such magnitude and economic importance to the people of the state and Nigerians at large.
“We have been engaging and will still continue to talk to the people so that they will understand that there is no sentiment attached to a project of that magnitude.
“The studies were done by experts based on outlined business case done during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan and this was before Udom Emmanuel became the governor and so there can’t be any sentiment on this,” he said.
Okon further explained that five locations along the Oron/Mbo/Ibeno coastline were considered and at the end of studies by experts, a seaside location was selected based on various factors including nearness to Deep Sea Trade Route, minimal environmental impact, ample space for variation and location within the industrial city.
Other factors in favour of the location according to the commissioner included soil improvement, low maintenance cost, social impact, low research technical solutions, limited population and nautical accessibility.
Okon added that while the location would be about 20 nautical miles from the Deep Sea Trade Route, the other locations could take up to 75 nautical miles to access the trade route.
He explained that while the seaport covered about 2,500 hectares of land, much of the industrial city covering over 14,000 hectares of land and the headquarters of the port would be located around the Mbo axis of the complex.
“Just like you have in Lagos, the Nigerian Ports Authority is in Lagos Island while the port itself is in Apapa.
“So the main structure of the port is in the seaside area while the headquarters is in the Mbo axis,” the commissioner added.
On the current state of developement of the facility, Okon said that the committee was awaiting the approvals of the studies that would be used for the bidding for the various aspects of the seaport and Industrial City while the project has progressed technically as projected.
While appealing for understanding and cooperation from the host communities of the project, the commissioner reminded them of the need to support the core investors and urged the people of the state to position themselves academically and professionally in order to benefit maximally from the project.
“It’s not about struggling for location but positioning our people practically by training and upgrading ourselves. Just like the Lagos port, the impact of this port will be felt in the 31 local governments areas of the state.
“Today we have many developements in Lagos, Agbara and other parts of Ogun just because of the Lagos port.
“In a country where about 80% of materials for manufacturing are imported,