The roll call for the third monthly meeting in Lokoja includes, among others, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Nigeria Maritime Admnistration and Safety Agency( NIMASA), Freight Forwarders of Nigeria( CRFFN), Maritime Academy of Nigeria(MAN), Nigerian Port Authority (NPA), the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Nigerian Custom Service, (NCS).
The essence of the gathering is to create synergy among agencies in the maritime sector and to discuss Maritime safety and security, port effeciency and inter modal transport. According to the Director General of NIMASA, the forum of the CEOs of the agencies had given the maritime industry a platform to grow and contribute to nation’s economic development.
The Managing Director of NIWA, Dr George N. Moghalu who disclosed the resolutions of their third monthly meeting said that all the maritime agencies had agreed to work together to rid the Nigerian Waters of unsafe craft practices that endanger passangers on the use of the waterways.
The CEOs meeting in Lokoja is therefore seen as an avenue to re-emphasise on their earlier decisions and overhaul its strategy or approach to get the desired result as resolved for waterways to become navigable to the benefit of all. The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) envolved from a depart in the Federal Ministry of Transport into an authority via an Act of the National Assembly, CAP47, law of the federation of Nigeria LFN, 2004 Decree No. 13 of 1997.
The NIWA that started operations effectively in 1998 was established with the primary responsibility to improve and develop the nation’s inland waterways for navigation. With this authority, the organisation was therefore empowered to provide an alternative mode of transportation for the evacuation of economic goods and persons, including implementing the objectives of the national transport policy on inland waterways of the country.
It has been established that out of the nation’s size of waterways of 10, 000sq kms, only 3,000sq kms is secure and safe for navigation. Experts said Nigeria waterways system is endowed with great prospects, and with potential to make greater contributions to the nation’s Gross domestic product. The maritime agencies therefore need quality leadership to transform these endowment to realities to make NIWA a leader in the waterways economy of Africa.
“This is attainable. In fact, it is a key part of the mandate given to me by Mr. President… I will work to make the waterways attractive to investors, to explore its tourism and business potentials”, said Dr George Moghalu, the MD, NIWA, as he gives assurance of having what it takes to manage the potentials and prospects that are abound on the waterways to boost economy of the nation.
Dr Moghalu posited that unlike in the past, the resources available to the government is not much any more, so it requires the organization to think out of the box to see what it can do to generate the needed resources internally to balance whatever it’s going to get from national purse.
“NIWA is determined to bring back the good old days. If our waterways are free flowing, the have a lot of impact to make on our transport system and they will affect us positively. The life span of our roads will be longer. It will reduce the pressure on our roads.we are determined to see that we bring the good old days of safe and reliable water transportation”, he stressed further.
Shedding more light, he said, “if you want to move 1,000 containers from Lagos port, which is our major port to the east, what that means is, you have to to put 1,000 trailers on the road and the pressure of 1,000 trailers on the road can be imagined, because it is going to be a lot of problem. But if we move this cargos on water, what we have succeeded in doing, is by removing these trailers off roads, so that our roads can survive”.
To achieve this, the Managing Director of NIWA stated that the organization is making frantic efforts to see that more jetties are put in place and made functional for the economy of the country to be strengthened properly, by moving more bulk cargoes through the inland waterways.
“By the time we improve on our cargo handling capacity, interms of movement of bulk cargos, we would have saved the nation a lot of money because the damage that our road suffers because of the movement of bulk cargos of our goods is alarming”, he added. The maritime agencies therefore resolved to prioritize the security and safety of the waterways to stem the tide of boat mishaps, for it to stimulate investors to make water transportation a mode of choice to haul their goods and services.
According to Dr Moghalu, most of the accident on the waterways are avoidable, stressing that critical assessment has brought to the fore that most of the accident happened either at night or early hours of morning, with some of the boats lacking navigational aids. In some cases, he said, the boat operators are not qualified and no provision of functional life jackets either for the driver, crews or passengers.
“Going forward, we are impounding rickety, ill-equipped and unlincensed boats; overloaded boats will also be stopped. They will not have a place in our waterways any longer. Life jackets are critical part of safety on the waterways; no one should board a boat without it. We have signed an agreement with a company that will be supplying life jackets at no cost to NIWA. The life jackets will be made available at all fronts, and a mechanism is already in place to ensure the jackets are actually worn”, he said .
The managing Director of NIWA added further that the maritime agencies are not unmindful of the fact that one way to make water transportation a mode of choice by investors is to clean up the waterways, remove wrecks water hyacinth, as well as building new jetties, developing existing jetties and shorelines. To develop inland waterways to attract investments and create jobs, the country opened up the river channels(dredging) and ports to make proper navigation possible, especially on River Niger from Baro in Niger State to Onitsha in Anambra state.
After the capital dredging, the management of NIWA is said to be pursuing maintenance dredging to ensure that the created channels are free and open. To this effect, the organization is procuring a dredger to embark on maintenance dredging intermittently to prevent silt deposit on the created channels for badges.
As part of securing waterways for navigation, the Managing Director of NIWA said the Onitsha and Baro river ports have been completed and effort is in progress to make it functional, stressing, that Lokoja river port which had an issue with the contractor has been resolved, with a review of contract sum of N4b to N6b. “The construction of Lokoja River port is ongoing. I can tell you authoritatively that the federal executive council has approved a review of the contract value”, he explained.
In one of such attempts to change the narative on the waterways, the MD said he will work with vibrant Nigerian media, saying that the organization is grossly under reported. “It is only when there is good working relationship that you can give advice on how we can sustain our efforts at NIWA”, he stressed.
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