As part of its determination to bridge the infrastructure gap in Nigeria’s inland waterways sub-sector, the Federal Government on Tuesday said that it has perfected plans to invest about N7.405 trillion ($49.4 billion) to develop new inland waterway infrastructure across the country.
While declaring open a three-day international conference and exhibition with the theme ‘Modernising Inland Waterways Infrastructure and Vessels for Safe and Sustainable Inland Water Transportation’ organised by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) in Lagos, President Goodluck Jonathan, who was represented by the Minister of Transport, Sen. Idris Umar, said that the investment will focus on developing new river ports in Baro, Niger State; Oguta in Imo State; Lokoja in Kogi State, including several other jetties before the end of 2020.
According to him, this move would help in positioning the inland waterway transport into becoming an alternative means of transportation for the movement of cargoes and passengers from the cities to the hinterland so as to ease the pressure on the roads.
“In order to further consolidate the transformation of inland waterways sub-sector, the Federal Government has approved the dredging of River Benue while the process for the award of contract for the construction of Makurdi River Port is in progress,” he stated.
The president, who further disclosed that the efforts of government are geared towards creating an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive, and to stimulate economic growth through the inland waterways, assured that the river ports when completed would be concessioned to private operators to drive efficiency.
“Government has no doubt that the vision, which informed huge investment made on the inland waterways sub-sector will encourage increased private sector participation that would result to return on investment,” he said.
On the issue of safety, he noted that the Federal Government had acquired some patrol boats to provide security coverage to lives and property within the inland waterways. This is even as the government is also pursuing the delivery of an efficient intra-coastal system to reduce pressure on the roads as regards movement of bulk cargoes.
Also speaking at the event, Chairman of NIWA board of directors, Bashir Dalhatu represented by Idanusa Umar, said that government focus in developing inland waterway infrastructure is to help in developing multi-modal transport system using public private partnership.
Dalhatu, who enjoined investors to key into the business development plans of the Federal Government, noted that NIWA is determined to make inland waterways safe and secure for passengers and cargoes.
This, according to him, is why the authority embarked on the distribution of safety equipment in the six geo-political zones in the country.