Mogbe!!! N7bn Lekki-Epe Int’l Airport suffers set back

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UNdoubtedly, one of the monumental uncompleted projects that the Lagos State Governor-elect, Akinwunmi Ambode, will be inheriting from his predecessor, Governor Babatunde Fashola, from May 29, 2015, is the multi billion Naira Lekki-Epe International Airport, located in the Lekki Free Trade Zone, LFTZ of the state.  The proposed international airport being implemented under the Public Private Partnership, PPP, is currently wobbling and facing serious financial challenge as a result of unwillingness on the part of investors.

Recently, some property owners in Eluju Town and its environs LFTZ, Ibeju Lekki Local Government Area of the state, had protested against what they called illegal acquisition of their land by Lagos government without any form of compensation. However, in swift reaction, the state government, through the Surveyor General, Joseph Olorunjuwon Agbenla, said they were being sponsored by people, he described unscrupulous individuals.

Agbenla, said that the allegation was incorrect, deceptive and capable of disrupting developmental plan in the state. He explained that contrary to the allegation, the state government had   only commenced excision exercise in some villages whereby some acquired lands were being returned to 98 villages to enable them participate in developmental process.

According to him, the expectation of the government from the excision exercise was to provide opportunity for the villages to key into the economic development process going on in the axis such as the LFTZ, the proposed International Airport, Dangote refinery project among others.

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With 64 companies that have already indicated interest to invest at least $25 billion (about N3.750 trillion) in LFTZ, Agbenla, urged residents to disregard the allegation but support the government in its activities, stressing that the essence of giving back the land is to fast track development at the grassroots. Some of the companies that have shown interest are; MasterCard, Guinness and a host of other companies. The reverse is the case with the proposed international airport in the area.

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Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Mrs. Sola Oworu, disclosed the current challenge facing the realization of the airport while briefing newsmen on the activities of her ministry. Oworu explained that further work has been suspended on the construction of the airport as the former investor which earlier indicated interest later withdrawn from pursuing the project over certain reasons.

Though, she was not specific on lack of funds for the withdrawal but said one of the reasons given by the investors was the 2015 general elections outcome, which they feared could endanger the investment by incoming administration. “The state government is currently shopping for new investors. Efforts are being made to conclude discussion with prospective investors. As soon as all documents are ready we will recommence construction work at the site.” Oworu stated.

Owuru however, assured that the incoming administration in the state would continue with the project, saying investors’ investments are guaranteed, as “a ready market is provided for their products with the state’s estimated over 20 million residents.” She also reiterated that the project is a reality as it had so far attracted key players particularly in the oil and gas sector with a greater prospect of attracting more investors as its development progresses, especially with the provision of standby 12 megawatts of electricity supply.

Oworu, recalled when the Minister of Commerce and Industry, Senator Jubril Martins-Kuye, carried out an on-the-spot assessment of the LFTZ, saying with the right environment, which had been created for the LFTZ, would be consolidated, so as to open doors of better economic opportunities and ensure, technology transfer and capacity building. Project: The state government had earlier, appointed one of the new generation banks, as the sole financial advisor on the proposed Lekki-Epe International Airport project.

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The airport  is to be developed on a modular basis at an estimated project cost of N71.64 billion in its first phase and is expected to commence operations with a conservative capacity of two million passengers per annum, reaching five million passengers by 2015. It is a scalable airport that is been designed to cater for the Airbus A380, making it a Code F compliant airport as well as boost economic activities around LFTZ.

Located about 10km from Lekki Free Trade Zone, LFTZ, the proposed airport was also designed to drive urban development and tourism in the Lekki-Epe axis of Lagos state and by extension check rural-urban drift.

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As part of commitment to make the LFTZ a fully functional investment haven, Oworu,  said the state government has also completed the master plan on the 3500 hectares of land earmarked for the project adding that preliminary work on the project had since commenced with the clearing of 4.5 km of the access road and 9km of perimeter road.

Financial partner: The Chief Executive Officer, CEO, (namewithheld) of one of the new generation banks a partner on the Airport project reinforced the bank’s long standing partnership with the state government in the area of infrastructure develop-ment. According to the CEO, “We are indeed proud to partner with the Lagos State Government on the Lekki-Epe International Airport project. Our involvement is yet another testament to our commitment to infrastructure development in Lagos State, which is founded on our deep belief in Nigeria and our confidence in its massive developmental potential.”

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Earlier EOI on project: Companies had earlier submitted Expression of Interest (EOI) in August 2011, bidding for the project under a PPP arrangement. Request for Pre-Qualification (RFPQ), 33 Nigerian and international firms had indicated interest to participate in the ambitious project. The RFPQ provides the bidding companies with guidelines for the submission of a Statement of Qualification (SOQ) which highlights their technical, operational and financial capability to design, finance, build and operate the Lekki-Epe International Airport, before its transfer to Lagos State Government at the expiration of the concession period.

NAHCO Aviance, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Arab Contractors Nigeria Limited and Cappa ’Alberto Plc, were among the 20 Nigerian companies that had been provided with the RFPQ. Companies that bided then, included; 13 international firms, Munich Airport Germany, Hyundai Engineering and Construction Co Limited (Korea), Canadian Commercial Corporation, Orascom Construction Industries, among others, for the development of the first phase of airport project.

Lekki master plan: The Lekki Peninsular which is regarded as the fastest real estate market in the whole of Africa, in the next five years will be transformed by projects currently being executed for the area, under the Lekki Master Plan being led by state government. Lekki International Airport ,Lekki Free Trade Zone ,Lekki light Rail Network , Lekki Water Transport System, vast road network including the rebuilding of the Lekki-Epe Express Way, landscaping and landscape irrigation, water supply and fire fighting water, storm water collection disposal, wastewater collection, solid waste management, power supply, telecommunications network and security are some of the projects on the desk.

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