Govt to concession Onitsha port this year, says Amaechi

The Federal Government, yesterday, promised to complete the process of concessioning the Onitsha Port in Anambra State before the end of the year.

Speaking at the 2017 International Conference and Exhibition organised by the National Inland Waterways Authority ( NIWA), in Lagos,   Minister of Transportation Rotimi Amaechi said the government has recorded tremendous progress on the concessioning of the port and urged  local and foreign investors to invest in inland ports and jetties to facilitate movement of goods and persons  across the country.

The theme of the event is: ‘Improving Navigation and Inland Ports Development for sustainable Investment on Nigerian Waterways’.

Amaechi spoke of immense investment opportunities in the nation’s inland waterways.

The network of rivers, creeks, lagoons and lakes,  the former governor of Rivers state said, are great resources that needed to be utilised maximally by the private sector.

Amaechi said  budgetary appropriations have been made to ensure the completion of the Baro, Lokoja and Oguta River ports within the lifespan of the President Buhari administration.

He said: “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 te Ajaokuta to Onitsha channels of River Niger; and this will save the country huge sums of money.

“I implore NIWA to procure bigger dredgers that have bigger capacity to perform better than they are doing presently.

“Another area that should earn our commendations on the activities of NIWA is the progress recorded over the amendment of the NIWA Bill at the National Assembly. The bill has gone through third reading at the Senate and it is hoped that the House of Representatives will also support and endorse the new bill, which in essence will enhance the capacity of NIWA to enforce her rules and regulations, resolve the present crisis with her sister parastatals and other government agencies, and boost the revenue profile of the Authority in order to make it self-sustaining.

“In the industry today, NIWA is also unveiling the Aquatic Wed Harvester (FX-IIB) and the Vegetative Cutter (AVC)-Swamp Devils I, II, and III which will go a long way in clearing water hyacinth on our waterways and enhance navigation especially in the Southern part of the country,” Amaechi said.

NIWA Managing Director  Boss Mustapha said the event was organised to promote the use of inland waterways transportation as a competitive alternative mode of transport in Nigeria.

The forum, he said, would enable the stakeholders to understand government policies in the sector.

He said there was need for free navigation on the waterways and development inland ports for cargo handling and passenger operations to create connectivity for multimodal transport linkages: Road, rail, waterways and sea transport.

“Another focus of this conference is to encourage the government and stakeholders to strengthen the desired machinery towards deriving the benefits of investment in coastal  and inland shipping operations on the Nigerian waterways.

“To achieve this development goal, NIWA  has commissioned an in-house project team to embark on a continuous dredging of the entire waterways in Nigeria, which was flagged-off by the Minister of Transportation with an overwhelming support of  the Governor of Kogi State .

“We are also scheduled to complete the construction and I stall action 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.”

NIWA, he said, is also restructuring to create functional department and business units that will specifically handle the potential Public-private -partnership agreement on concession and leases.

“One of the focus 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.

“To achieve this developmental goal, NIWA has commissioned an in-house project team to embark on a continuous dredging of the entire waterways in Nigeria, which was flagged off by the Honourable Minister of Transportation with an overwhelming support of His Excellency, the Governor of Kogi State on the 28th of April, 2017 at the Ajaokuta jetty. This is aimed at sweeping silts and deepening the waterways for smooth navigation.

“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,” Mustapha said.

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