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Indications emerged in Lagos during the recent 2017 National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) International Conference and Exhibition that all the pleas made by South East top business operators and importers during the visit of the Acting president on the need to concession Onitsha River Port may become a reality before year end.
This is based on the fact that the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi who spoke as a guest at the conference said I am pleased to confirm that we have recorded tremendous progress on the concessioning of Onitsha River Port and we are very hopeful that the process of concessioning of the port will be completed before the end on the year.
However, he noted that government will try to complete abandoned river ports projects in 2019.
But the question begging for answers is whether concesssioning the port will be in isolation considering what the Minister meant by government will complete the river ports located at Baro in Niger State, Lokoja in Kogi State and Oguta in Imo State, which have been abandoned for about a decade before the end of 2019.
This is based on the fact that whatever cargo coming to Onitsha will have to pass through Oguta and part of Warri inland waterways which will be worked on and dredged before the end of 2019, the election year.
Business Hilights recalls that all the South East chambers of commerce had during the visit of acting president Yemi Osinbajo had lamented the uselessness of the Onitsha port which was refurbished with whooping N4bn during the last lap of former President Goodluck Jonathan but was not concesssioned due to 2015 general election.
Osinbajo while responding to the pleas of the South East business who saw the delay as official marginalization of Ndigbo said government will work out modalities for the effective use of the infrastructure.
According to him, “Adequate budgetary appropriations have been made to ensure the completion of the Baro, Lokoja and Oguta River Ports within the lifespan of this administration.
“I am happy to announce that NIWA, especially under its new leadership, has been able to look inward and through their in-house engineers, have commenced the maintenance dredging of the Ajaokuta to Onitsha channels of River Niger; and this will save the country huge sums of money. “Thus I implore NIWA to procure bigger dredgers that have bigger capacity to perform better than they are doing presently.” In his remarks, Managing Director of NIWA, Boss Mustapha, stated that the agency is focused on developing inland ports for cargo handling and passenger operations in order to create connectivity for multimodal transport linkages (Road-Rail-Waterways-Sea).
“One of the focuses of this conference is to encourage government and stakeholders to strengthen the desired machinery towards deriving the benefits of investments in Coastal and Inland Shipping Operations on the Nigerian waterways. The Onitsha port that is fully equipped and was commissioned in January 2013 has now received ministerial approval for the advert for Expression of Interest (EoI) to be published. We are also scheduled to complete the construction and installation of cargo handling equipment at the Baro port, Lokoja port, Oguta port and a number of jetties and landing platforms in many communities along the waterways this year,” the Minister averred.