Stakeholders in the water transportation sector had at different fora harped on the need for big companies such as the Dangote Group to embrace the alternative of transporting their products through the waterways instead of hauling them via the roads. The little priority accorded the water transportation system has led to exertion of too much pressure on the nation’s road networks due to high volumes of vehicular traffic conveying passengers, heavy commodities, goods and services from one part of the country to the other on daily basis. These constant pressures on the roads have given rise to negative consequences such as frequent auto crashes which often lead to loss of lives and property worth millions of naira, nerve-wracking traffic gridlocks and wearing out of our roads, amongst others. All these factors and many others are reasons that should make the government and other critical stakeholders in the transportation sector to see to the development and effective utilization of the waterways. The bulk of the nation’s navigable water channels which link most parts of the country are said to be found within the two main rivers – Niger and Benue. Also, the inland water transportation has a lot to contribute to the national economy and development, adding that 28 out of the 36 states of the federation can be accessed through water. One thing is sure, the use and maintenance of navigability of the waterways is safer and much cheaper than the use and maintenance of other modes of transport. Water transport is indeed the most sustainable mode of transportation for the future.
Nigeria can make good use of the waterways in various ways because the maritime industry is very large such that we have so many vessels coming in. However, one of the things I noticed on our waterways is that there are wrecks in the water and that has caused many ships not to come in. Though, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and other government agencies are trying to remove all the wrecks. The waterways are big and so it can create jobs for many people. Nigeria can make effective use of the waterways by allowing indigenous citizens have access to loan from banks so as to enable them buy ships so that they can also take part in loading refined crude. Dredging should be done on the water for effective usage. Most importantly, bribery and corruption should be dealt with in the issue of tariff in the maritime sector. Though, there is cabotage law but I do not think it is put into use yet.
There should be proper policing and safeguarding of our waterways. There are reported cases of piracy and abduction of people on the waterways every day. For us to maximise the use of our waterways, I feel the Nigerian Inland Waterways should do a lot of publicity using other government agencies like NPA, NIMASA and so on to advertise the benefits of waterways to Nigerians because many people do not know the importance of the waterways. Our waterways need to be dredged quarterly because there are so many wrecks in it which is not good for the image of our country. Our waterways can also be used for effective transportation if well managed, not necessarily transporting cargoes but conveying humans on ferry. That way, Nigerians will see the use of the waterways.
For Nigeria to have effective utilization of its abundant waterways is transportation. The road is too congested. I feel we will have less traffic when people are encouraged to use the waterways as a means of movement. In the maritime sector, we can also ensure its maximum usage by using it to transport cargoes instead of using the trucks. This will reduce road accidents and containers falling on the road. I feel the waterways are the safest means of transportation. However, the wreckages in it should be removed.