- Says Onitsha, Baro ports ready, awaiting concessioning
As part of measures to check avoidable accidents on the nation’s waterways, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) said it has begun building a database of all qualified boat drivers in the country, which it will circulate across all its operational offices to enable it identify and sanction non-compliance.
It noted that from available statistics and information, most of the recorded accidents happened either in the night or very early in the morning, often arising either from boats not equipped with navigational aid, were rickety, had no lifejackets, or were manned by non-qualified operators or drivers.
Therefore, the NIWA Managing Director, Dr. George Moghalu, told stakeholders in Lagos over the weekend that all area mangers have been directed to impound any rickety boat or errant operator on the waterways, insisting that “no boat will operate on our waterways if not licensed to operate.”
According to him, with the database, the agency’s operational bases across the country will easily identify and sanction persons not qualified or boats without navigational aid. Likewise, “no overloaded vessel should ply our waterways. These are some of the steps we have taken.”
To compliment these measures, Moghalu said that NIWA has a memorandum of understanding with a company to supply lifejackets, which would be made available at all waterfronts, so that nobody would use the excuse of its non-availability to enter a boat without it.
He further disclosed that his target is “to make water transportation a means of choice, both for bulk cargo and human passengers. Every effort is geared towards cleaning up our waterways, removing rakes and water hyacinth to the best of our ability, developing new jetties and repairing the ones we have.”
Meanwhile, Moghalu disclosed that the Onitsha and Baro inland river ports are 100 per cent completed, awaiting concession, adding that he would be happy to have both fully operational before leaving office.
“That is why my first official visit was to Baro, by water from Lokoja, because I wanted to see things for myself,” he explained. “Baro and Onitsha river ports are completed. Oguta River Port is about 60 per cent completed but abandoned because in the past 10 years, it has not been in the budget.”
He said he has met with the Imo State Government and other critical stakeholders to raise (free) money for its completion because “if the Federal Government has invested 60 to 61 per cent (of funds) running into billions (of naira) on that project, leaving it uncompleted is a disaster. So, completing it, for me, is also a priority.
“Now, the concessioning process is on, but you must understand (that) it is not like me waking up and deciding to sell my house, it has to undergo a lot of processes, which are on now.”