In the face of dwindling income from oil and gas, Nigeria now has opportunity to harness the huge natural resources embedded in inland waterways as an alternative to boost her revenue profile, Transportation Minister, Engr Muazu Jaji Sambo has said.
The subsector has economic potentials capable of revolutionizing the country’s economy by creating thousands of jobs across multiple sectors for the citizens, he stated.
He was speaking in Abuja while inaugurating the Technical Working Group (TWG) on the Proposal for Channel Management from Escravos to Onitsha and Baro Ports on the Niger River on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) platform.
Engr Sambo said: “I am the most excited man in the world today because Providence has challenged me to bring into reality a project I had long conceptualized as an employee of the National Inland Waterways Authority”.
As General Manager, Lagos Zone of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), he recalled, he travelled to China three times on separate delegations to market the waterfront lands owned by the Authority and the Marina NIWA Area Office with a proposal to reclaim the adjoining area to build a container and passenger terminal for passengers between Lagos Island and Apapa.
The Minister observed that containerized goods destined for Onitsha and other hinterland locations are better transported to such areas by barges or vessels that can accommodate low draughts from where they could be picked by vehicles for distribution.
This system of cargo movement has the advantage of decongesting the ports, ensure a long life span for roads and lower pollution levels.
It also creates diversified jobs for people, drastically reduce the cost of imported goods as well as make Nigeria’s exports competitive in the international market.
The Minister referred to the United States of America where “the economies of 38 States depend on inland waterways for the movement of about 630 million tonnes of cargo annually valued at over 73 billion dollars”!
The 18-man TWG is to carry out Legal, Financial and Technical Due Diligence on Messrs DIDS Nig. Ltd, the project proponents, in Nigeria and abroad as well as document all data and materials collected from survey/charting and the operational processes, for the purpose of security and future use for the development of a robust Project Structuring Report (PRS).
It will also X-ray policies applicable for the purpose of putting the inland waterways channels to economic use and negotiate what is accruable to FGN/NIWA at every level of operations and any other responsibility as may be assigned by the Honourable Minister.
The TWG is made up of technocrats from NIWA, NPA and the Nigerian Navy. The Permanent Secretary, Transportation Ministry, Dr. Magdalene Ajani is Chairman. NIWA Managing Director, Dr. George Moghalu is Alternate Chairman while Hassan Kaka, NIWA’s Deputy General Manager, Business Development serves as Secretary.