Gridlock: NIWA Moves to Open Up 10,000Klm Waterways to Ease Cargo Transportation 

…As Corona Virus Slows Down Due Diligence on Onitsha River Port
The Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Dr. George Moghalu has assured that the authority is working to ensure that the 10,000 kilometers of inland waterways in Nigeria are opened up for easy transportation of cargoes and persons across the country.
Moghalu stated this at a stakeholders meeting held in Lagos on Friday.
NIWA MD, George Moghalu (middle) flanked by Lagos Area Manager, Eng Sarat Braimah (right) and Head of Legal Services, Barr Danladi Ibrahim at the stakeholders meeting in Lagos yesterday
This is even as the NIWA boss assured that the Onitsha River Port as well as the Baro River Ports are 100% completed and awaiting concessions to private operators.
Moghalu however lamented that the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus (COVID19) has affected due diligence being carried out on Onitsha River Port.
He told the stakeholders that he and his team were supposed to have travelled to Antwerp Port in Belgium as part of commissioning process of the port, but the Coronavirus hindered them from travelling.
The NIWA MD said that out of the 10,000 kilometers of inland waters in Nigeria, only 3,650 of the waterways is navigable. He however assured that NIWA is opening open up the rest of the channels in order to relieve the gridlock at Apapa port.
Moghalu said there is an ongoing redevelopment of shorelines at the marina jetty in Lagos, and that apart from that, NIWA is clearing water hycients and wrecks on the inland waterto make them more navigable.
“When I was appointed four months ago as MD of NIWA, I set a target for myself that in one year, water transportation would become the choice means of transporting bulk cargoes and human personnel. I believe with your support I will achieve it”
“We would not be able to do all at once, it is a continuous process that we would be doing stage by stage until we get to a point whereby we would achieve free channels.
Like you already know, Nigeria has 10,000 kilometres of waterways, and we can access 28 states in the country through the waterways, only 3,650 of the waterways is navigable,  but I believe we can open up the channels, clear them up in order to relieve the gridlock we have in Apapa today”
“Assuming we want to clear 1000 containers and send them to the East, what this means is that we would have 1,000 trailers on the road, and yet our roads were not designed to carry these high level of weight this is why the roads break down”
“But if we open up the channels and transport the containers by waterways,  I can assure you that the gridlock would be sufficiently addressed” he said
According to Dr. Moghalu, Onitsha River Port and Baro River Ports are 100% completed, the  Lokoja River Port is 62% completed, while the Oguta River Port was 60% completed before it was abandoned about ten years ago.
He appealed that NIWA is currently looking for cheap funding by all means to complete the Oguta River Port.
“If we can get these ports functioning,  I can assure you that the burden  and the pressure we have on our roads, and the Apapa gridlock would be reduced, it would also create room for employment”
He revealed that NIWA has been busy building jetties across the country. In the last four months of his assumption of office, he said NIWA has commenced the construction of about six new jetties, the work is ongoing, and in 2020, he said NIWA would still do a lot more as these jetties have to be made functional.
“Let me sppeal to the stakeholders and call on new ones that there is a lot of potentials on our waterways,  I want to encourage us to invest there. Whatever we can do on our own part to make sure that there is value on your investment, you  can count on us, we are determined to ensure that there is return on your investment”
“The maritime sector is expected to fund the 2020 budget as a result of the crash in crude oil prices, as private operators and government parastatals, it is incumbent on us to synergies to see how we can drive the economy outside the petroleum money”
About the frosty relationship between NIWA and the Lagos State Government, Dr. Dr. Moghalu assured that the issue is being addressed at the highest level.
“I had a long meeting with the Lagos Governor yesterday,  and I can assure you that all areas of contention would be resolved, we have agreed to put up a team between us, they would move to work immediately to get all the details worked out so that there would not be any conflict whatsoever”
“Same applies to the NPA, I have already engaged the Managing Director of NPA, she is a sister and a friend and we have started talking, all areas of friction would be certainly addressed” he assured
Also speaking at the meeting, Chairman of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council  (PCC) Otunba Kunle Folarin urged the NIWA MD to step up the campaign on the use of life vests for boat riders and passengers, saying that the level of accidents on waterways is alarming.
Otunba Folarin lamented that there is shortage of manpower development in the maritime sector, he said currently,  the professionals are ageing while there are no trained hands to take over from them.
Chairperson of the  Nigerian Shipowners Forum, Barr Margaret Orakwusi noted that safety issues on the waterways must be handled with urgent attention, while the recklessness of the boat operators must be addressed.
According to her, NIWA should ensure that rescue missions and ambulances are provided on the waterways in case of accidents.
On his part, former Managing Director of Nigerian Shippers Council, Dr. Kingsley Usoh lamented the shallow draft of the inland waterways,  saying that this prevents barge operators from loading high numbers of containers.
He also called for creation of policies that would stop the construction of bridges across the inland waterways, according to him, this prevents stacking of containers.

President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) Comrade Adewale Adeyanju who was represented by Comrade Francis Bunu, charged NIWA on developing the boat operators  rather than signing memorandum of understanding on taxing them.

He said that currently, boat operators welfare have been abandoned, while they are being double taxed.
Corroborating this, President of Association of Tourist Boats and Water Transport Operators of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) Mr. Tazzan Ganiu Balogun noted with concerns that the number of boats owned by his members have declined due to double taxation,  especially by NIWA and the Lagos State Government.
He urged NIWA to encourage local manufacturing of boats and watercrafts.

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