The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, has described the nation’s Inland Waterways as veritable channels to Nigeria’s prosperity and long overdue for harnessing, with economic potentials capable of revolutionizing the country’s economy through the creation of thousands of jobs across multiple sectors and wealth for citizens.
The Minister made this known in Abuja at the inauguration of 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.
Speaking further, the Honourable Minister 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”.
The Minister, as General Manager Lagos Zone of NIWA had travelled to China three times on separate delegations, marketing the waterfront lands owned by the Authority and the Marina NIWA Area Office was zeroed on with a proposal to reclaim that lagoon adjoining the land area, to build a container as well as a passenger terminal for passengers crossing between Lagos Island and Apapa.
According to him, the idea is that when containers come into Lagos, they do not have to discharge in Lagos, goods meant for Onitsha and the hinterland but transport them in barges or vessels that can traverse on low draughts to Onitsha port to be picked by vehicles for distribution in the hinterlands.
“The primary objective is to invest in, maintain and operate a high grade, well-secured Inland Waterways channel from Lagos to the hinterland for the movement of cargo thereby decongesting the ports of Lagos, ensuring a long life span for our roads, lowering pollution levels, creating diversified jobs for our people, drastically reducing the cost of imported goods while making our exports competitive in the international market”, Sambo said.
The Minister said Nigeria can learn from the United States of America’s example, 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”! It is interesting to note that 28 states of Nigeria are connected by water.
The Terms of Reference of the TWG include:
i. Carry out Legal, Financial and Technical Due Diligence on Messrs DIDS Nig. Ltd, the project proponents, in Nigeria and abroad.
ii. 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).
iii. X-ray policies applicable for the purpose of putting the Inland waterways Channel to economic use.
iv. Negotiate what is accruable to FGN/NIWA at every level of operations and any other responsibility as may be directed by the Honourable Minister.
The 18-Man TWG has technocrats from the National Inland Waterways Authority, Nigerian Ports Authority, and the Nigerian Navy among others, with the Permanent Secretary, Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, as Chairman, the Managing Director of NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu as Alternate Chairman, Hassan Kaka, the Deputy General Manager, Business Development, NIWA, as Secretary.