President Muhammadu Buhari has approved $186million to combat and stem the cycle of criminalities on the Nigerian waters. The Federal Government has also approved N100million for the dredging of the River Niger.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi made the disclosure on Thursday at a national conference on fast-tracking port reforms organised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation in collaboration with The Nation Newspapers in Lagos.
Addressing participants at the forum, Amaechi said that $186m has been approved by President Buhari for the fight against piracy and other criminalities on the waterways.
Part of the money, the Minister said, would be used to buy three helicopters and three aircrafts among others.
His words: “Mr. President has approved $186million to fight piracy in our waters. The funds will be used to buy three helicopters, three aircrafts, 12 vessels stationed in the water. In the next 3 months, all of them would be deployed to fight piracy in our waters.
“We promised change. Change is not talked about, it is felt. That is why we asked that the people should give us time.”
On the dredging of the River Niger, Amaechi said that N100m has been budgeted for the dredging of the project against the N34billion paid by the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for the same project.
“When the River Niger was first approved for dredging by the previous administration, it was approved for N47billion and N34billion was paid to the contractor. Dancers were called in and there was a party.
“We are not dredging the River Niger with billions of naira, we are dredging the River Niger with just N100million. When we flagged it off recently, did you see us dancing? Was there a party? I just went to see the Governor and told him that the project will start today and will be finished in one month.
“The Governor said he will accompany me, and I said ok. So, I asked the Governor to flag it off since it is located in his State.
“People are wondering how on earth we are going to dredge the River Niger for N100m when the previous government awarded same contracts for N47billion. But we are going to dredge the River Niger using dredgers owned by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
“NIWA has dredgers, but the previous government preferred to give contractors money to dredge the river with private dredgers while NIWA’s dredgers were lying idle somewhere in Port Harcourt.
“The NIWA MD told me the agency has dredgers, but it’s been hired out to somebody in Port Harcourt. So we had dredgers, but the previous administration hired it out to some persons in Port Harcourt, while paying a contractor billions of naira to use privately owned dredgers at a very high coat.
“I told the NIWA MD that I will look for money to fuel their dredgers, and work has started. That is why we are dredging the River Niger with just N100million,” Amaechi said.
In her speech, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman said are the gateways to international trade and regarded as major accelerators of local economic development.
“According to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Netherlands has been able to sustain a relatively high economic growth rate because of the Port of Rotterdam, in spite of the intensely competitive environment in Europe. The success of Singapore is equally attributed to the Port of Singapore which has developed a transport logistic centre and has successfully been able to attract foreign investment.
“It is thereby acknowledged that the maritime sector, an essential component of the transportation system is crucial for wealth creation.
“However, a port becomes an active wheel of an economy only if it is run efficiently. One of the key areas of efficiency that our ports require is the national single window. I am pleased to announce that the Authority and the Nigerian Customs service have concluded the operational model for establishing the National single window and will in the next few months commence with the public tender process of selecting the vendors that will deploy the required information technology infrastructure.
“Presently, the function of a port is not only limited to the traditional activities but has expanded to a logistical platform. Ports not only perform the basic operations (embarking, disembarking and transferring of passengers and crew, loading, unloading and transshipment of cargo to and from the vessels, storage and warehousing of merchandise on land and stevedoring to and from vessels), they provide inland access and intermodal connections as well as complementary services to shipping carriers,” she said.