S/East importers decry official abandonment of Onitsha River Port 4 years after
An issue of urgent regional importance was thrown up at the recent official visit and tour of Innoson Motors manufacturing plant in Anambra State by the Vice President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo.
Leading importers and exporters in South East stood in unison to inform the Vice president during a question and answer session with South East organized Private Sector (OPS) executives that they are not happy on why the federal government had officially abandoned the planned concesssioning of Onitsha River port, four years after it was constructed by the federal government at a whooping cost of over N4bn.
Unfortunately, visiting Vice President smartly avoided giving any answer to the matter, thereby raising a clear pointer to the fact that the scheme may have been officially abandoned to punish the South East.
However, in an interview with Mr. Tayo Fadile, the General Manager of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) during a recent conference by Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) in Topo, Badagry, Lagos, he decried what he described as politics of concession, saying “The port is long overdue for takeoff, but for the intrigues of who or which investor will be the concessionaire”.
Investigations further revealed that last administration had concluded plans to concession the Onitsha port but was hobbled by interests ranging from the type of concesssioning process and who is likely to be positioned to win the bidding.
A source told Business Hilights that “In fact, at a time, the government unnecessarily started looking for a consultant that will serve as a consultant to the main concessioning consultant just to truncate the process and frustrate the prospective users who are Igbos after all”.
The source queried why a government that has appointed a consultant will start to look for another advisory consultant for the appointed consultant (not on request) just to organize the concessioning of Onitsha port.
“In the process, election fever started coming in and that is all; today, Onitsha port is gradually becoming a failed project.
Fadile noted that “the installed capacity of the port is enough to sustain all cargoes that is carrying goods to the South East. It will ease off congestion both at Lagos and Port Harcourt ports and save much for traders and manufacturers using the facility.
He also hinted that because of the delayed usage due to the inability of the government to fine tune the process of concessioning it, many aspects of the machinery and fittings may have started losing tensile force and corrosion may degrade the facility to the extent it may not be concessionable again.
Business Hilights recalls that the last administration under former president Goodluck Jonathan had reconstructed the port at Onitsha Head Bridge to boost shipping activities in the South East and reduce loses encored by importers of eastern extraction who suffer to come to Lagos or Port Harcourt to place orders for either exports or imports.