Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi

Strong indications emerged that the Federal Government in putting measures in place to ensure that the ongoing construction works at Oguta, Baro and Lokoja River Ports were completed before this administration winds down in 2019.

Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, who gave this indication, spoke at the 2017 edition of International Conference and Exhibition with the theme: ‘Improving Navigability and Inland Port Development for Sustainable Investment on Nigerian Waterways’ organised in Lagos Tuesday by the National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA.

According to him, the current administration is committed to enhancing the navigability of the nation’s inland waterways with a view to attracting investments in the area, a development that makes it incumbent on NIWA to complete the Oguta, Baro and Lokoja River Port projects on or before 2019.

He disclosed that budgetary allocations have already been made in the 2017 appropriation in this direction to ensure the completion of these projects and therefore urged private sector operators to maximally utilise the network provided by the rivers, creeks, lagoons and lakes in the country, which will contribute significantly to the growth of the economy.

“I am happy to announce to you that adequate budgetary allocations have been made to ensure the completion of the Oguta, Baro and Lokoja River Ports projects within the lifespan of this administration.”

“I am also pleased to confirm that we have recorded tremendous progress on the concessioning of Onitsha River Port and we are very hopeful that the process of concessioning of the port will be completed before the end of this year.”

“I wish to announce that NIWA, especially under its new management  has been able to looks inward and through their in-house engineers, have commenced the maintenance dredging of the Ajaokuta to Onitsha channels of the River Niger; and this will save the country huge sums of money”, the Minister said emphatically.

Amaechi therefore urged the management of NIWA to procure bigger dredgers in order for the agency to perform better in its operational activities.

He also said: “I therefore implore NIWA to procure bigger dredgers that have bigger capacity to perform better than they are doing presently.

“Another area that should earn our commendations on the activities of NIWA is the progress recorded over the amendment of the NIWA Bill at the National Assembly. The bill has gone through third reading at the Senate and it is hoped that the House of Representatives will also support and endorse the new bill, which in essence will enhance the capacity of NIWA to enforce her rules and regulations, resolve the present crisis with her sister parastatals and other government agencies. This will in no small measure boost agency’s revenue profile in line with the efforts of the Federal Government to make it self-sustaining, especially in terms of funding”.

He however commended NIWA for unveiling the Aquatic Wed Harvester (FX-IIB) and the Vegetative Cutter (AVC)-Swamp Devils I, II, and III which, he argued will go a long way in clearing water hyacinth on the nation’s waterways and enhance navigation especially in the southern part of the country.

Meanwhile, Managing Director of NIWA, Boss Mustapha, while speaking at the event, noted that the agency is determined to develop inland ports to aid cargo handling and passenger operations in order to create connectivity for multimodal transport linkages (Road-Rail-Waterways-Sea) transport in the country.

According to him, one of the focuses of the conference is to encourage government and stakeholders to strengthen the desired machinery towards deriving the benefits of investments in coastal and inland shipping operations on Nigeria’s waterways.

He said: “To achieve this developmental goal, NIWA has commissioned an in-house project team to embark on a continuous dredging of the entire waterways in Nigeria, which was flagged off by the Honourable Minister of Transportation with an overwhelming support of His Excellency, the Governor of Kogi State on the 28th of April, 2017 at the Ajaokuta jetty. This is aimed at sweeping silts and deepening the waterways for smooth navigation.

“The Onitsha Port that is fully equipped and was commissioned in January 2013 has now received Ministerial approval for the advert for Expression of Interest (EoI) to be published”.

It was also gathered that the agency is doing everything possible to complete the construction and installation of cargo handling equipment at the Oguta, Baro and Lokoja Ports, as well as some jetties and landing platforms in several communities along the waterways before the end of 2017.