The Managing Director of the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr George Moghalu, has disclosed that over 65 per cent of cargo coming into Nigeria has the southeast, especially Onitsha and Aba in Anambra and Abia States, respectively, as their final destinations.
Giving updates on the activities of the authority, at the Ministerial Media Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, on Thursday, Moghalu
He pointed out that the current road network infrastructure cannot withstand the sheer volume of traffic required to move cargo from the southeast to other parts of the country.
According to him, this necessitated recent efforts by NIWA to provide water inroads to the northern part of the country.
He said the Onitsha River port is now ready to receive cargoes from the port in Onne following the successful test run of moving cargoes from Onne port to Onitsha by his agency.
Moghalu stated that when cargoes start to berth in Onitsha River Port, not only will more revenues be generated but it will further help to save the roads from unnecessary pressures.
He also revealed that plans are underway to concession the Onitsha River port, adding that the concession will create over 2,000 direct and indirect jobs for Nigerians.
The NIWA boss added: “We have done successfully the test run of movement of cargoes from Onne port to Onitsha River port. What we are doing now, we are trying to conclude an arrangement to move cargo from Lagos to Onitsha.
“Once we are able to do that, others will buy into it. I have spoken to the Chambers of Commerce and they also engaged the Importers Association but this attitude of let’s wait for the government to do it first, if they succeed then we can follow is what is holding the commercialization of that operation.”
On the efforts made to curb accidents on Nigerian waterways, Moghalu said the NIWA has embarked on aggressive enforcement of the Inland Waterways Transportation Code to ensure safety on the inland waterways.
He added: “Discussion is ongoing with telecommunication companies to provide services across the length and breadth of Nigeria’s Inland Waterways. This will greatly improve the provision of security and safety within the waterways.
“Automation of the security network on the Waterways to monitor activities and to provide an effective response to security challenges. Provision of lighthouses along the waterways to guide ships or to warn them of danger.
“Provision of armoured patrol boats to protect the Command from attack during operations.
“Generation, protection and sharing of data with security agencies to aid criminal investigation and security planning in illegal oil bunkering and piracy. Systematic boat registration scheme not only for standardisation of boats, but also for the promotion of security.
“Provision of more personnel to the NIWA Police Command for effective coverage of the vast waterways network. Collaboration with neighbouring countries to secure boundary locations along Waterways.
“95 per cent of accidents on waterways happen at night and early in the morning hence, we have banned all jetties from boarding within those periods.”
He said that NIWA has successfully linked 28 out of the 36 States of the federation through waterways as efforts are ongoing to link the remaining states within the shortest possible time.
While noting that NIWA is committed to making water transportation a safe option for Nigerians, he disclosed that efforts are ongoing to develop the Lokoja River port and Baro River port in Niger State.
Moghalu also lamented the menace of floating debris in vital waterways as according to him, the authority spends a fortune annually to rid the waterways of nonbiodegradable wastes such as plastic and rubber.
He disclosed that the federal government is working on an agreement to secure technology for monitoring and securing the nation’s Inland waterways from South Africa.
According to him, with the technology, the authority can monitor the movement of vessels anywhere in the waterways.
He said the South African firm whose name he did not reveal, exchanged visits with NIWA and the authority informed them of the challenges faced in their effort to provide security in Nigeria’s waterways.
According to him, the company affirmed that they could help because of the type of technology available, which is currently being deployed in South Africa.
Moghalu said: “We visited them and they visited us and we now presented our challenge because we want to be in a position to monitor all our waterways and they have the technology.”
“There is a technology they are going to deploy so that I will be in the control room in Lokoja and be able to monitor all the vessels that operate in our waterways,” he said.
He revealed that despite talks of insecurity, survey has commenced on Lake Chad to open it up as an inland water transportation hub to access other African countries.
According to him, the fact that the survey is ongoing is an indication that the insecurity prevailing in the region has been sufficiently addressed.
He said NIWA is working in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy for the project.