After 75 years of stalling amid various obstacles, the Benin Port Project is finally kicking off with the emergence of a preferred bidder for the most ambitious legacy project of the Edo State Governor, Mr. Godwin Obaseki.
Chairman of the Benin Port Project, Dr. Greg Ogbeifun, confirmed, weekend, that the preferred bidder, Mota Engil Africa, emerged after a one-week evaluation exercise conducted on the bids received in response to the Request for Proposals, from the three pre-qualified bidders, namely China Harbour Engineering Company (China), Mota-Engil Africa (Portugal), and Yilport Holding Inc (Turkey).
Mota Engil Africa, which is also handling the Kano-Maradi rail project of the Federal Government, recently took delivery of $200m worth of equipment, showcasing its capacity to deliver on big-ticket projects.
Efforts to construct the port had persisted unsuccessfully for over 75 years after it was first proposed, as regulatory, funding and institutional setbacks halted various moves to embark on the project.
Governor Obaseki had promised to build the port during his campaigns in 2016 and has ever since pursued the actualisation of the project, navigating an extremely complex maze of regulatory and institutional challenges.
The governor had in his New Year address in 2017 announced the set-up of a seven-man committee chaired by Engr. Greg Ero, to lead the development of the port project. This Committee was eventually succeeded by the Dr. Ogbeifun-led Benin Port project team, which is currently handling the project.
Responding to the development, Obaseki said it was delightful that the project has finally kicked off in earnest to serve as a launchpad for the expansion of Edo’s $11.8bn economy, noting that it will catalyse the growth of the agriculture, real estate, manufacturing, food processing, automotive, power, retail and extractive sectors.
“We are now set for the commencement of this landmark project, which will open a new vista of opportunities for Edo people and Nigerians in general,” he noted.
Detailing the process leading to the emergence of the preferred bidder, the Project Director, Benin Port, Dr. Joe Aigboduwa, said: “Request for Proposal (RFP) documents had been issued to the prequalified bidders on 18th April 2023.
“A Pre-Bid conference was held with the bidders on 26th April 2023, followed by visits to the project site from 13th June to 14th June 2023. Bids were eventually submitted in Abuja on the due date of Friday 30th June 2023.
“The very rigorous and transparent evaluation exercise was conducted by the Project Delivery Team (PDT) and coordinated by the Transaction Adviser (CPCS Transcom) in compliance with international best practices. The Technical Proposals were first opened and evaluated from Monday 3rd July to Thursday 6th July 2023. The exercise culminated in the public opening of the compliant Financial Proposals on Friday 7th July, 2023 in the presence of the bidders.”
The 300,000 Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEU) Benin Port would reactivate pre-colonial trade routes through the Benin and Osse Rivers, which was where the Portuguese first had contact with the Benin Kingdom in 1472 AD.
The Governor Godwin Obaseki-led government has rolled out an expansive plan for the Benin Port, which is designed to be a unique agro-based Port in Nigeria that encompasses a complete smart Port Community Complex for industrial processing and export of agricultural produce and other goods, with independent, clean and renewable energy installations.
The container and multipurpose terminals of the port would also have RoRo facilities to enable direct importation of vehicles for the thriving automobile industry in Edo State, among other commercial activities that would spring from the port operations.
Chairman of Benin Port Project, Ogbeifun expressed appreciation to members of the evaluation team for their dedication, professionalism and transparency exhibited throughout the exercise, and looked forward to further cooperation in continuation of the Concession award process.
The immediate past Minister of Transportation had earlier set up the Project Steering Committee (PSC) and Project Delivery Team (PDT) to ensure realisation of the Benin Port Project under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, as already approved by the Federal Government of Nigeria through the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC).
The PSC and PDT comprise representatives from the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Federal Ministry of Justice (FMOJ), Federal Ministry of Finance (FMOF), Bureau of Public Enterprise (BPE), Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Edo State Government (EDSG), and the Transaction Adviser (CPCS Transcom, Canada).
The Edo State Government is also completing the dualization of Ekehuan Road, which is the major Access Road to the port location from Benin City, the state capital.
Governor Obaseki assured all stakeholders and partners of the government’s full support to ensure that the project is completed in good time and deliver value to Nigerians and port users from different parts of the world.