WASHINGTON: The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, says the concession of Onitsha River Port in Anambra, will be completed before the end of 2017. Amaechi made this known at the National Inland Waterways Authority’s (NIWA) 2nd International Conference and Exhibition’ (ICE) 2017 on Tuesday in Lagos. According to him, the Federal Government has recorded tremendous progress on the concessioning of the river port.
“The Onitsha port was fully equipped and commissioned in January 2013. “It has now received ministerial approval for the advert of Expressing of Interests (EOIs),” Amaechi said. The minister said that the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) had carried out maintenance dredging of 200 km out of 500 km of the River Niger proposed by the Federal Government with less than N100 million. “We are also scheduled to complete the construction and installation of cargo handling equipment at the Baro, Lokoja and Oguta Ports and a number of jetties and landing platforms in many communities along the waterways in 2017.
According to him, NIWA is waiting for Nigerians to come and take off the sand to continue with the dredging. He commended the management of NIWA for the great achievements. “NIWA is responsible for the dredging and government had not spent up to N100 million. “We have come with the Change Agenda and we expect that people are disciplined to be able to deliver on their mandate. “This conference is to project NIWA to the outside world, develop a platform to attract investors, sensitise the public on the authority’s gamut of activities and investment opportunities,’’ Amaechi said.
He said that the network of rivers, creeks and lakes were great resources to the country that needed to be maximally utilised by the private sector. The minister said that the bodies of internal waters were used to facilitate movement of economic goods. “NIWA under its new leadership has been able to look inwards through their in-house engineers and have commenced the maintenance dredging of Ajaokuta to Onitsha channels of River Niger and this saved the country huge sum of money. “I am imploring NIWA to procure bigger dredgers that have capacity to perform better that they had been doing,” Amaechi said. He commended NIWA’s effort on the progress recorded on the Amendment of NIWA Bill in the National Assembly. Amaechi said that the bill had gone through the third reading at the Senate.
The minister said that there was hope that the House of Representatives would support in endorsing the new NIWA bill which was meant to enhance the authority’s capacity to enforce its regulations. In his welcome address, the Managing Director of NIWA, Mr Boss Mustapha, said that the first edition of ICE was held in 2014, saying that the conference would become an annual event. Mustapha said that Idea of ICE was to promote Inland waterways transportation as a competitive alternative mode of transport in Nigeria, through discussions, consultations and sharing of ideas with stakeholders. He said that this would be at conferences and exhibitions of most modern facilities.
According to him, another focus of ICE is to encourage government and stakeholders to strengthen the desired machinery toward deriving the benefit in Coastal and Inland Shipping Operations on the Nigerian Waterways. “NIWA is also restructuring to create functional departments and business units that will specifically handle the potential of Public Private Partnership agreement on concession lease,’’ Mustapha said. He commended support of all sister agencies such as the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and the Nigerian Railways Corporation.
In his address, the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council, (NSC), Mr Hassan Bello, commended NIWA’s effort in taking a bold step in improving transportation system in Nigeria. Bello said that the new NIWA bill would create room for fresh investments in the country. “Now if we have varieties of road transportation including inland waterways transportation, that means we have multi-modalism “This will reduce all stress on our roads and we have rail complementing transportation. “This is similar with what the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is doing with the establishment of dry ports and Truck Transit Parks in the country, ‘’ Bello said. Also speaking, the Managing Director of NPA, Ms Hadiza Usman, said that transportation was the driver of the economy. She said that there were inland transportation which had been neglected in Nigeria, pointing out that NIWA was now expanding the economic activities in country. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that theme of the conference is: “Improving Navigation and Inland Ports Development for Sustainable Investment on Nigerian Waterways”.