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Job Opportunities: Why Buhari Should Reopen Akassa Seaport Now

by Achadu Gabriel, Kaduna

BAYELSA STATE – The promise made by President Muhammad Buhari administration to create million job opportunities for the teaming youth may not be a dream pipe or a myriad as being speculated in some quarters by millions of Nigerians.

The impression on the “promise” has gained popularity and had been projected in so many parts of country by people of like minds in different faith and is believed to be unchallenged.

The prediction cut across religious and ethnic boundaries by those, who have not seen any possibility in the age-long “government propaganda” as described by many.

What perhaps may be lacking, however, could be ideas that would drive home the process to actualize the good intentions of the administration for the overall benefit of the nation’s jobless population of young people.

In galvanizing these ideas, reference must be made to the opportunities available for immediate exploitation in the country because of the urgency the situation deserves, among others.

In working towards realizing these opportunities, government must not overlook resources endowed in various regions and sectors in the economy that require being harnessed and explored equitably. 

For instance, there is urgent need for the reopening of Akassa Seaport in Bekeriri community in Akassa Clan of Brass local government area of Bayelsa state.

The urgent need to reopen the Akassa Seaport by relevant authorities, especially the federal government, is not only of utmost importance in job creation but also imperative, considering the general global acknowledgement of ports as agents of development.

Aside the capacity to create multiple job opportunities for the teaming youths, the Akassa Seaport will generate revenue for the Bayelsans, Bayelsa State and Federal Government, among others, and bring new level of development to entire region and Nigeria in general, when fully operational.

Historically, Akassa Clan is a coastal territory, which falls within latitude 402’N and 404’N, and longitude 6020’E and 4040’E. Akassa has one of West Africa’s tallest light houses. It was used as entrance marker to the Akassa Port and a navigational aid
for maritime pilots at sea; an architectural piece of hexagonal skeletal tower with steps and gallery. 

Akassa Light House was built in 1910. From the Admiralty list of light and fog signals, indicating that Akassa Light House focal plane is about 65m (213ft) with a white flash of every 10s.

The natives of Akassa have unflinching support for the reopening of the seaport for obvious reasons that, globally, ports are acknowledged as agency of development. 

Even the request by the people of Akassa for the reopening of Akassa Seaport is precipitated on the fact that ports are globally acknowledged as development agents. Therefore, it cannot be overemphasized to state that, Akassa Seaport will not only improve Bayelsa State fortunes, but will equally bring about variety of jobs when the Sea land interfaced and structured.

Furthermore, the Seaport will once again bring back the glory of the port that, indeed, once served as gateway of Nigeria’s Trans-Atlantic Trade, which brought the country to fame and wealth, when fixed and reopened.

“We, the people of Bekekiri community in Akassa Clan, Bayelsa state and Nigeria in general, are certain to become a new economic growth poles that will attract investors, professionals, artisans seeking opportunities to harness trade and commerce.

“Hence, we appeal to the Ministry of Environment to partner with other legislative framework and regulatory bodies like Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Customs and Excise and Ministry of Interior.

“We, the Traditional Rulers, Chiefs, Elders, CD.C., Youths and the entire people of Akassa Clan, are convinced that re-opening of Akassa Seaport is a legitimate one, long-overdue, and when opened under God, will continue to contribute immensely to the sustenance, development and prosperity of our people and Nigeria as a whole,” the people of Bekeriri and their traditional ruler, HRH, King Ayubami Stephena, have stated.

Pertinent to also mention here are the great explorers, who made the Akassa Port so important and how the mouth of the River Niger was discovered by Mongo Park, Clapperion, the Lander Brothers, Barth, Oudney and Dr. Baildie. 

Akassa Port became so important in Nigeria and the world at large when it was discovered that Nun entrance in Akassa was the mouth of River Niger. Lander Brothers, Richard Lander and John Lander made it to Asaba, later Abo and Solu, where Bayelsa and Rivers are in dispute over oil well today.

They employed the services of Kulo, King of Nembe, in 1830 where they finally reached Akassa Port, and Captain Brigg Thomas took them to England via Fenendo Po, now Equatorial Guinea, as shown in the first British map.

In December 31st, 1899, the Royal Charter was revoked and the British government took direct control of Akassa Seaport. There were some important items like the Marine Dockyard that were removed to Foreados.

In 1928, Akassa Seaport was jointly operated with the Wari Port, which was headquartered in Oweri Province, Degema Division.

Akassa was first owned and operated by John Holt Transport, a British Colonial shipping firm. It was later operated by the United African Company, UAC, of Nigeria. But, all ports were later rehabilitated to standard form, under the management of Nigerian Ports Authority. 

Nigerian Ports Authority was established by the British Government and controlled from 1955 to 1960. The Nigerian state is, by virtue of the NPA Act, Section S(x) under obligation to construct, equip, execute, improve, work and develop port harbours and operate facilities in ports, including the maintenance, joint ventures, improvement and regulation of the use of ports.

By 1969, a decree that took control of Burutu, Calabar and Akassa Port took charge from John Holt and UAC. The decree also empowered their corporations to enter into agreement with the World Bank to finance some ports in Nigeria, thereby abandoning Akassa Seaport.

Even the traditional institutions and council also believe in the viability of the seaport in creating job opportunities, if reopened. “We, the Traditional Rulers, Chiefs, Elders, the concerned people of Akaasa Clan Community Development Committee, CDC, Youths bodies, women groups and the entire people of Bekekiri Community in Akassa Clan, conscious of our historical mission to improve the lots of our people, hereby state or demand for the re-opening of Akassa Seaport.

“European countries stimulated the development of Seaports, and the British Government led the way to establish and introduce protectorates, seaports and terminals in areas like Lagos, in 1874, Akassa in 1883, Bonny in 1893, Calabar in 1891, Port-Harcourt in 1899, among others,” they stated.

The British also categorized all their ports as “Western Ports” such as Apapa Port, Lagos Port, Tin-Can Island Port Complex with terminals, while Bastens Ports are also known to the British people as “Gateway Ports.”

The British people established ports called Dry Ports, which are in Kaduna, Kano, Ibadan, Jos Abia and Katsina states, respectively. They planned to link these land ports to seaports by rail.

Since 1830, Akassa has become headquarters of the trading empires like John Holt, the Millers Brothers, Macgregor laid, Dempster and Company, Glasgow, and Liverpool and James Pinnok Trade in Akassa Clan.

By 1877, George Dashwood Goldie Taubman, an English merchant under the Niger and Oil River, organized the United Africa Company (UAC), which combined British traders active in the Niger Delta region and, in effect, took control of the Niger River.

The UAC was renamed ‘National African Company’ (NAC), in 1882, and ‘Royal Niger Company’ (RNC) on the 10 July, 1886. That was the year the company received a charter (which lasted from 1886 to 1899), placing it formally under British protection.

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