Following the untapped resources in the inland waterways, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, has inaugurated a technical working group for the channel management between Escravos, Onitsha and Baro ports on Niger River on Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement, BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
Nigerian waterways resources have been grossly underdeveloped despite its great potential and opportunities for economic development. In fact, only 30 per cent of the 10,000 kilometres of inland waters in the country is currently navigable due to some challenges.
Such problems include high concentration of sand bar in the river bed, wrecks on the creeks, inadequate policing, robbery, illegal dredging, pollution to marine life, environment degradation, illegal bunkering, poor harbour accessibility, illegal fishing, undulated water surface and insecurity, among others. Besides, it was learnt that some of the private jetty owners on the creeks have converted their jetties to wreck dumps, both on their waterfront and ashore.
Regardless of these problems, the Minister of Transportation, Sambo, has described the nation’s Inland Waterways as cash cows long overdue for harnessing, saying that the sector flourishes with economic potentials capable of revolutionising the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Due to this, the minister inaugurated a Technical Working Group (TWG) Proposal for channel management between Escravos, Onitsha and Baro Port on the Niger River on public private partnership (PPP) arrangement.
For instance, the minister explained that the primary objective was to invest, maintain and operate a high grade inland waterways channel between Baro River Port point to Onitsha River Port to the Warri Port at the Niger River and onward connection to the Gulf of Guinea for a sustainable maritime transportation route.
According to him, the 18-man TWG had technocrats from National Inland Waterways (NIWA), Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Navy among others, with the Permanent Secretary, Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, as chairman, the Managing Director, NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, as alternate chairman, the Deputy General Manager, Business Development, NIWA, Hassan Kaka, as secretary.
Sambo said: “Providence has challenged me to put into reality what I went to China to pursue as an employee of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). I went to China in 2016, 2017 and 2018. In my own case, I was marketing the water front lands owned by NIWA and we zeroed on the Marina Area Office with proposal to reclaim that land to build a container terminal as well as passenger terminal for people passing through Apapa.
“The idea was that when containers come into Lagos, you don’t have to discharge those meant for Onitsha in Lagos, but transport them in barges or vessels that can transverse low draughts to Onitsha port to be picked by vehicles for distribution in the hinterlands.”
Also, sambo noted that this would lay a solid foundation for navigation network that would connect the Lagos ports, Lekki Deep Seaport with the Onitsha and Baro River Port for transportation of containerised and none containerised cargoes for shipping efficiency in Nigeria.
Also, he added that the value of such activities would lead to the decongestion of Lagos ports, prolong the life span of the roads, reduce pollution and create a new mode of transportation by water, which in turn will not only engage civilians but security forces as the cargoes have to be escorted.
Terms of reference
Sambo charged the technical working group to carry out legal, financial and technical due diligence on Messrs DIDs Limited home and abroad and do the documentation of every single data and raw materials collected from survey and the operational processes, for the purpose of security and future use for the development of a robust Project Structuring Report (PRS).
The minister urged the working group to x-ray policies applicable for the purpose of putting the Inland waterways channel to economic use and negotiate what could be accruable to the Federal Government at every operations and any other responsibility as may be directed by him.
Prior to the decision of the minister, stakeholders in the industry had identified about 31 investment opportunities on the Nigerian rivers, creeks, lagoons, lakes and intra-coastal waters, which could bring revenue to government. However, both private and government have failed to exploit the opportunities for decades.
Some of the investment opportunities, according to the Chairman, Port Consultative (PCF), Otunba Kunle Folarin, include: fish trawling, ship building and repairs, cabotage, port and harbour, hydro power generation, off shore and off dock stevedoring, jetty operation, ferry and boat services, tourism, platforms, pilot and towage boats, mooring and supply crew vessel.
He listed others as coastal shipping, container freight stations, shipping and forwarding agencies, medium and small scale industries, reefers carriers, truck holding bays, refineries, petrochemical industries, dredging and marine materials excavation, supply of bunkers of petroleum and water, cargo consolidation, logistics and distribution.
There is need by the Federal Government to encourage investors into the inland waterways sector in order to boost the nation economy and create jobs for youths.