‘We want to put Onitsha River Port to use before we concession it’

The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) is planning an International Conference and Exhibition (I.C.E) that will showcase the vast economic opportunities provided by the nation’s waterways. NIWA I.C.E 2014 was heralded with a press conference on Wednesday in Lagos during which the NIWA Managing Director, Hajia Maryam Inna Ciroma, and her management team talked about what is expected of the event scheduled to hold in August. Ciroma said that the event is focused on showcasing the dredged River Niger and the business potentials the river holds.  Uju Ozoeze was at the press conference for SHIPS & PORTS DAILY.

 

Excerpts

 

On the NIWA I.C.E 2014

The International Conference and Exhibition was informed by the fact that lower River Niger has been dredged, the maintenance building has been completed and we need Nigerians and the international community to know that we have very vibrant inland waterways in Nigeria. Therefore we felt it is right to bring this knowledge to everybody and the best way to go about is to hold an international conference where we will exhibit the dredged river Niger potentially has for the Nigerian economy. So we need everybody to know that anybody who wants to invest in the inland waterways will be making a wise investment. Those that we intend to invite for participation includes but not limited to the federal government and state governments, river transport companies, oil prospective companies, oil and gas supporting companies, commercial and sand-mining companies, dredging companies, shore-based business operators, entrepreneurs, dockyards, hotels, restaurants, yacht yards, and resorts. What informed us to come out with this list is that these are the potential beneficiaries of the dredged river Niger.  We want to bring them on board to brainstorm and came out with ways to best make use of dredged lower River Niger.  Government cannot just expend huge amount of money on dredging the channel and just allow it to lie fallow without being used. The river Niger has a lot of business prospects.

 

On plans to concession river ports and jetties

The river ports in particular are going to be concessioned but since the Onitsha river port is completed, we expect that it should be operational. That is why we say that we want to put the Onitsha river port to economic use before concessioning. The concessioning process for the river ports are in place. For the jetties, we have a PPP (Public-Private-Partnership) arrangement in place so that people that are interested in managing our jetties we will enter a private partnership arrangement.

 

On how much invested by the government in inland waterways projects

Government invested 36 billion naira in dredging activities. On jetties and ports, government invested 13 billion naira and government is still investing because we are still coming up with some jetties. As a matter of fact, the state governments are asking if we can work with them for us to come up with some. These things are ongoing and at the moment that is what we have for you.

 

On measures taken to ensure safety of the nation’s waterways

We have been campaigning about safety. We started our campaign in Niger state. We launched safety campaigns because last rainy season we recorded quite a number of boat mishaps in Niger state. We have also distributed life jackets and fliers to sensitize waterways users on the need to use life jackets, on the need not to overcrowd their boats, the need not to use old and rickety boats and the need not to travel at night because it is very dangerous. We are coming up with a Code that will give us the wherewithal to be able to enforce our rules because you might have your dos and donts but if you can’t enforce them then they are of no use. We were also at Lagos for the safety campaign. We know that in Lagos it is very critical for us to encourage people to bring in modern comfortable vessels to be moving people around. I’ve seen them in Europe and I know we can have them here in Nigeria. The boats we use here are not up to standard. The International Conference and Exhibition will showcase the kind of boats that we think people should bring in especially in Lagos.

 

On the envisaged Inland Waterways Users Code

Stakeholders are meeting on the National Code for Water Transport Users. That is on top of our agenda. We are contacting the state governments to participate. We are contacting all stakeholders to participate. Road Safety, Nigeria Police, Naval…all bodies that has to do with transportation, we want to convene and come up with Inland Waterways Users Code something similar to the Road User Code. We also contacted IMO and in fact, one or two countries will participate in the stakeholders’ conference called the Inland Waterways Code.

 

On measures taken to managing the menace of hyacinths on the waterways

Water hyacinth is a menace and annually government budgets money to clear water hyacinths and we also contract it out to be cleared either manually or mechanically. We have also invested in buying some machines worth 700 million so you now know that the government is very serious about the eradication of water hyacinths. You know water hyacinth is a menace international in nature. They are weeds that moves from one country to the other and that is why we are trying to come up with an international conference also on water hyacinths management because if we do our own here in Nigeria without the contributions of other countries we won’t make headway. So we need to do it holistically and hopefully by the end of this year.