To elicit efficient, prudent and profitable utilization of the waterways transport system. the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA has said that the Federal Government must transform waterway infrastructure in line with shared vision and initiative towards modern competitive multi-modal water transport system with best practices and service consistence with current global standards.
The Managing Director, NIWA, Munirudeen Oyebami who made this assertion at the 2023 Conference and Awards put together by the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria, AMJON with the theme, “Rebuilding Nigeria’s Economy Towards Viable Transborder Trade”, in Lagos on Thursday said that the huge infrastructural deficit had grossly affected waterways transport system in Nigeria.
Oyebami who was represented at the event by the General Manager, Business Development, NIWA, Surveyor Oluwole James Adetola believed that the improvement in the institutional structure and features of waterways and its associated public utilities were essential to attain economic growth.
According to him, “The infrastructural intervention requirements for optimal benefits of Nigeria waterways include dredging to remove silt and other impediments, construction of River ports and jetties, installation and maintenance of navigational aids such as dams, dykes and groin to ensure the achievement of highest level of efficiency and seamless operations.
“Others include improvement of port linked flow in landward connection to the ports, river bank protection and maintenance of dredged channels. Removal of wrecks and derelicts on the inland waterways that impedes navigation.Removal of aquatic weeds including water hyacinths and other plants on the waterways.”
While emphasizing the need for re-energised system of safety and security on the waterways, the NIWA boss submitted that provision of all these infrastructures and services for navigation would require a lot of fund which is not available to the Government.
He said, “Public Private Partnership is one of the options being explored by the federal government to bridge the funding deficits through the various models of PPP.”
He, however, assured that the the Authority was working hard to enable investors in the maritime industry to access cabotage fund to acquire vessels and barges for navigation on inland waterways adding that aids and grants from international donors were also being looked into to address the funding gap towards the provision of more infrastructures for safe and secured navigation on inland waterways.
He added that in order to achieve enormous benefits associated with use of waterways transport system in Nigeria, the stakeholders in the subsector must synergize to ensure that the policy of intermodal transportation connectivity for movement of passengers and cargo from one mode of transport to another mode that commonly take place should be adopted in Nigeria to derive maximum benefits from all transportation modes.
Blaming the woes of the waterways transport on the Nigerian civil war, Oyebami recalled that the war declined the use of Inland Waterways for navigation insisting that due to hostilities, the well established firms that plied River Niger and Benue like the UAC Limited, John Holt Limited, CEF Limited among others, could no longer operate.
“Compounding the problem was the discovery of oil in commercial quantities, its profitable exploitation and the subsequent resultant oil induced rapid industrial activities which resulted in massive transport needs. The solution was thought to lie in highways development; therefore a lot of resources were expended on the extensive highway construction to the neglect of the waterways and railways.
“There is no doubt that all forms of transportation are important and vital to the development of a country. It is as a result of the perceived benefits associated WIth the transport mode that efforts are constantly made to ensure that it is supported, improved and sustained in order to continue to contribute positively to a country’s development.
“Despite its great potentials and opportunities, it provides avenues for the economic development of the nation’s waterways resources which are gross underutilized and underdeveloped. In order to elicit efficient, prudent and profitable utilization of the waterways transport system, the Federal Government must transform waterway infrastructure facilities in line with shared vision and initiative towards modern competitive multi-modal water transport system with best practices and service consistence with current global standards”, he submitted.
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