To showcase the vast economic opportunities available on the nation’s waterways, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) plans to hold an International Conference Exhibition (ICE) in August.
The NIWA I.C.E 2014 was unveiled on Wednesday at a press conference held in Victoria Island Lagos.
The conference with theme Modernizing Inland Water Infrastructure and Vessels for Safe and Sustainable Inland Water Transportation in Nigeria would provide a platform for dialogue among different groups and stakeholders involved in the sustainability, safety and utilization of the nation’s inland waterways for the benefit of the economy.
To brainstorm during the conference are government officials, regulatory bodies, financial institutions, the media, maritime and private sector stakeholders and the media.
The exhibition part of the event holds for three days with potential exhibitors as the federal and state governments, river transport companies, oil-prospect companies, oil and gas supporting companies, commercial and sand-mining companies, dredging companies, shore-based businesses, river craft operators and owners, entrepreneurs, restaurants, yacht yards, resorts among others.
The NIWA Managing Director, Hajiya Maryam Ciroma, during her opening speech at the press conference, said that the I.C.E was borne out of the need to bring to the knowledge of the local and international community the business potentials of the dredged River Niger.
Ciroma said that the I.C.E will provide a veritable platform for investors to know that there are commercially vibrant inland waterways in Nigeria.
She said that the Nigerian government pumped a lot of money into dredging the River Niger and it is only fit to have it put to a profitable use for the Nigerian economy.
She said: “It is right for us to bring this knowledge to everybody and we thought that the best way to go about it is to hold an International Conference and Exhibition where we will exhibit what the dredged River Nigeria potentially has for the growth of the Nigerian economy. We need everybody to know that there is good business for anybody who wants to invest in our inland waterways.”
She said that although there are plans to concession the river ports it is only wise to put the already completed Onitsha River Port to economic use before it is concessioned.
The NIWA MD said that with the government’s Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) initiative, there is no doubt about an efficiently managed and viable waterway transport business in Nigeria.
Also speaking, the I.C.E Planning Committee Chairman, Chief Femi Ajisafe, said that the event will provide the opportunity for waterway transport operators and owners in Nigeria to network and partner with foreign boat operators and manufacturers.
Ajisafe said that the boats and infrastructures used in Nigeria for water transport operations are not internationally competitive and are due for upgrade.
“For instance our basic channel is to a draught of about 2.5 meters and their own channels are deeper but they have vessels of shallow water so these are the kind of things that we want to partner with these people and with operators in Nigeria. The infrastructural facilities I am talking about are the ports, jetties and other facilities that will add value to water inland transportation in Nigeria” he said.
The NIWA I.C.E 2014 is expected to have international bodies such as the World Wide Inland Navigation Network and Inland Waterways International (IWI) in attendance.
NIWA is said to be the only African organization officially registered with IWI.