By DAPO OLAWUNI
Board Chairman of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Senator Binta Masi Garba, has said that the agency is now autonomous and has exited the Federal Government’s Integrated Payroll and Personnel Information System (IPPIS) and that the agency is now autonomous to generate revenue and take care of it’s staffing needs.
Senator Garba stated this when she led other members of the board to the NIWA Lagos Area office on a working visit and tour of NIWA facilities in Lagos.
This is even as the Lagos Area Manager of NIWA, Eng Sarat Braimah commended the board and the managing director, Dr George Moghalu for the increase in staff salaries which according to her, reflected in the February 2023 salaries that has just been paid.
While speaking, Senator Garba commended the Lagos Area Office under the leadership of Eng Sarat Braimah, especially in the area of Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) which according to her has hit N1billion from previous N600million.
After listening to the various challenges the Lagos office is facing, the NIWA board Chairman said that there is need for management to encourage the Lagos office.
“The Lagos area office is becoming too small, and motivation is key to any staff if you want to get the best from them. I align myself with the needs of the workers, without the funding and the Vehicles, there is no way they can move around and get more IGR’s
“The joy that I have is that they (NIWA) are now autonomous, they can create things for themselves, they are now an agency generating revenue to take care of their wellbeing and give back some fraction of it to the federal government.
“I appreciate the MD for putting structures in place to strengthen the status of NIWA and for making the workers happier than they used to be, this would make them do more for the agency.
“Being our first point of call, from what I was told, from N600milliom to over N1billion is being generated by the Lagos office, I strongly believe that whatever they need should be prioritized, because from N600milliom they have exceeded it to N1billion and they are now looking at achieving N2billion, definitely they should be given a pat on the back and all their needs should be met, it might not be hundred percent, but the basics should be given” she said
Speaking on the increment in the staff salaries, the NIWA Board Chairman said the proposal was met on the table and that it has been there before now.
“All what they wanted was the same standard with other agencies like NPA who are not part of the IPPIS, they are self sustaining and giving back percentage of what they generate back to the federal government.
“It has lingered for long, and the government felt that the funds being generated can now keep them. They are now on the same scale with other agencies, and employment would now be enhanced” she said
Also speaking, Managing Director of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu assured that NIWA gaining autonomy from the IPPIS is not a cause for fear, but that it would spur the agency to work harder and achieve more.
“NIWA leaving IPPIS is not a cause for alarm or fear, it is a basis for us to work harder and get more money, because if are not going to pay ourselves, we would starve, but if we want to get our salaries we would work harder.
“I think it is a strong position we have taken amongst ourselves and before we took that position, we agreed amongst ourselves, management and staff that this is a good step”
Moghalu also noted that there are areas in Lagos that NIWA is looking forward to boost it’s presence by constructing more infrastructures and jetties.
He said that the agency has entered into Public Private Partnership with some companies who would invest in the waterways and open it up by injecting facilities and purchasing more boats.
“We believe that the maritime sector has great potential to expand the Nigerian economy. So we have open contacts with companies on PPP arrangement to open up the waterways, unless we do this, we cannot maximize the profitability of the sector”
Dr Moghalu commended the NIWA Board under the leadership of Senator Binta Masi Garba, saying that the board has been very supportive, just like the previous board.
“The board understand us and we understand them, I am particularly happy that the board is here in Lagos, we are going to spend some time here to see what we have on ground”
He revealed that a Chinese company has been engaged to develop the Lagos Area office and jetty, adding that a new timeline would be issued to them.
According to Dr Moghalu, a new jetty would also be built at the Lagos area office.
Already, a new police building is already being built and nearing completion.
Speaking earlier, NIWA Lagos Area Manager, Eng Sarat Braimah appreciated the board and management for the Public-Private Arrangement for the agency’s property at Oyingbo, which was concessioned to Morbod, adding that it has given NIWA publicity and a good name.
Eng Sarat said “We want to appreciate the board and the managing director for approving the increment in our salaries. We saw a huge difference this February, and we are so proud of a woman heading our organisation as board and we have seen the difference.
“We want to appreciate you for the Public-Private Arrangement for our property at Oyingbo, it has given NIWA publicity and a good name. The Oyingbo property has since been abandoned, I have been in Lagos Area Office as an engineer and I know that the Oyingbo Jetty has been one of the bad face of NIWA in Lagos. But today, we thank God for the approval of the MD and the board to privatize the jetty to Morbod, and now the place has changed.
“We want to thank you too for the Inauguration of the Waterways safety task force, the cleaning of the water hyacinth has been every year, attacking boat operators engine, causing them not to navigate properly, but through the intervention of water hyacinth cleaning, NIWA is making name in Lagos State.
“Clearing of wrecks, we have been able to clear some, it has been a continuous effort. Search and Rescue gadgets has been fixed at our office here.
We have laid buoys at Badagry and Ikorodu, we are asking for more at Badore and Ajah route just for safety on the Waterways”
While highlighting challenges confronting the Lagos Area Office, the NIWA Lagos Area Manager said that the Lagos office located at Marina is in a good location, but it is no longer befitting.
“We want a remodelling of the buil so that we can compete with other organizations.
“We want more security, this place is a public jetty and it is porous. Replacement of generators, operational vehicles for patrol and arrests, we have only two which are dead. We need a staff bus.
“We don’t have any Slipway owned by NIWA in Lagos, so, all our marine boats repairs cannot be carried out, what we are using now belongs to a client that is just helping us. Slipway with dockyard.
“Construction of more jetties, we don’t have presence in Badagry, Ikorodu, Lekki Epe, Agbara. This is why Lagos State government is always competing with us as if they want to take Lagos away from us.
“Signage on waterways for boat operators direction, chatting of the Lagos waterways is necessary for us to know the depth of the waters so that we can advise stakeholders and investors.
“We need more patrol boats, this time, we need fast running boats that are standard, because we are chasing boats.
Other challenges are; Training and retraining, and restoring NIWA International Conference and Exhibition (NIWA ICE) for popularity of the office.