President Muhammadu Buhari led the federal government yesterday and inaugurated an 18-man technical working group (TWG) proposal for channel management between Escravos, Onitsha, and Baro Port on the Niger River through Public Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo who disclosed this action plan of the government, described the nations Inland Waterways as cash cows long overdue for harnessing, noting that they abound with economic potential capable of revolutionizing the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Sambo stated: “The 18-Man TWG has technocrats from National Inland Waterways, Nigeria Ports Authority, and the Navy among others, with the Permanent Secretary, Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani, as Chairman, the Managing Director, NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, as Alternate Chairman, the Deputy General Manager, Business Development, NIWA, Hassan Kaka as Secretary.”
The minister, who made this known in Abuja at the inauguration noted that providence has, “challenged me to put into reality what I went to China to pursue as an employee of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).”
He posited: “I went to China, in 2016, 2017, and 2018. In my case, I was marketing the waterfront lands owned by NIWA and we zeroed on the Marina NIWA area office with a proposal to reclaim that land to build a container terminal as well as a passenger terminal for people passing through Apapa.
“The idea was that when containers come into Lagos, you don’t have to discharge those meant for Onitsha in Lagos, but transport them in barges or vessels that can transverse low draughts to Onitsha Port to be picked by vehicles for distribution in the hinterlands.”
Sambo explained that the primary objective is to invest, maintain and operate a high-grade Inland Waterways channel between Baro River Port point to Onitsha River Port to the Warri Port at the Niger River and onward connection to the Gulf of Guinea for a sustainable maritime transportation route and lay a solid foundation for navigation network that would connect the Lagos Ports, Lekki Deep Seaport with the Onitsha and Baro River Port for transportation of containerized and non containerized cargoes for shipping efficiency in Nigeria.”
He noted that the value of such activities will lead to the decongestion of Lagos Ports, prolong the lifespan of the roads, reduce pollution, and create a new mode of transportation by water, which in turn will not only engage civilians but security forces as the cargoes have to be escorted.
According to the Transportation Minister, the Terms of Reference of the TWG include: ” Carry out legal, Financial and Technical Due Diligence on Messrs DIDs Ltd home and abroad. Documentation of every single data and raw materials collected from the survey and the operational processes, for security and future use for the development of a robust Project Structuring Report (PRS). X-ray policies are applicable to put the Inland waterways channel to economic use.
“Negotiate what is accruable to FGN/NIWA at every operation and any other responsibility as may be directed by the Honourable Minister,” he added.