From Gelegele Seaport to Benin Seaport – The Lies and the Elusive Tales

John Mayaki, former Chief Press Secretary to Edo State Governor

From Gelegele Seaport to Benin Seaport – The Lies and the Elusive Tales

Once upon a time in 2016, the people of Edo State eagerly awaited the fulfillment of a promise made by Governor Godwin Obaseki. He pledged to deliver a deep-sea port before the end of his first term in office, filling the hearts of the people with hope for economic growth and prosperity.

As time went on, Obaseki entered his second term, with only one year left in office, and the promised seaport had yet to see the light of day. Disappointment filled the air, and questions arose about the governor’s commitment to his words.

In November 2017, a glimmer of hope appeared when news broke that the governor had received a technical report on the proposed Gelegele Seaport, now known as the Benin seaport. The report, led by Chairman Greg Ero, was expected to pave the way for progress and development.

Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki
Edo State Governor, Godwin Obaseki

January 2018 brought another significant event, as Governor Obaseki signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited, marking a milestone in the project’s development. Excitement grew as plans for an Inland Container Depot in Edo state were unveiled, with the Chinese firm indicating their readiness to partner with Atlantique Marine Engineering Services for export purposes.

By March 2018, work on the Gelegele Seaport was said to be intensifying, fueling optimism among the government and the people. The governor expressed confidence in the project’s timely delivery, with China Harbour Engineering Company Limited working diligently on soil testing and ground mapping, adhering to best environmental practices.

Yet, as the years rolled on, promises began to lose their luster. In May 2018, reports of securing preliminary approvals for financing raised hopes, but additional funding expected by September failed to materialize. Progress seemed elusive, and doubts crept into the minds of the people.

In September 2018, Governor Obaseki signed an agreement with China Harbor Engineering Company for the development of the Benin Port, along with the Benin Industrial Park and a modular refinery. This development offered a glimmer of hope, but doubts remained.

The subsequent years were filled with a mix of statements, appointments, discussions, and proposals. Various actors and entities emerged, all claiming progress, yet conflicting reports and contradictions painted a picture of uncertainty and deception.

June 2023 arrived, bringing a renewed defense of the project from Governor Obaseki. Plans to sign with the Port of Antwerp in Belgium were announced, raising expectations once again. The groundbreaking of the Benin River Port Project was scheduled for August of the same year, promising completion within 24 to 36 months.

However, the headlines in the newspapers could not hide the disillusionment felt by the people. Mota Engil Africa emerged as the preferred bidder, yet this announcement clashed with earlier assurances, deepening the skepticism surrounding the project’s fate.

Unrealized promises, delays, and conflicting reports left the people of Edo State feeling betrayed and disheartened. The seaport, once a beacon of hope, had become a symbol of deceit and broken dreams. The journey towards a vibrant seaport and the prosperity it could bring remained an elusive tale, with the truth obscured by a web of uncertainty and disappointment.

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