The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, has inaugurated a technical working group (TWG) to invest, maintain and operate a high-grade inland waterways channel for maritime transportation.
Sambo described the nation’s inland waterways as “cash cows long overdue for harnessing”, as they abound with economic potentials capable of revolutionising the country’s gross domestic product.
Sambo made this known today in Abuja at the inauguration of the technical working group (TWG) proposal for channel management between Escravos, Onitsha and Baro Port on the Niger River on public-private partnership (PPP).
“Providence has challenged me to put into reality what I went to China to pursue as an employee of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA),” he said. “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 container and passenger terminals for people passing through Apapa.”
According to him, the idea was that when containers come into Lagos, they do not have to discharge those meant for Onitsha in Lagos but transport them in barges or vessels that can traverse low draughts to Onitsha port, to be picked by vehicles for distribution in the hinterlands
“The primary objective is to invest, maintain and operate a high-grade inland waterways channel between Baro River Port point and Onitsha River Port, to the Warri Port at the Niger River and onward connection to the Gulf of Guinea. [This way, we can have a] sustainable maritime transportation route and lay a solid foundation for navigation network that would connect the Lagos ports and Lekki Deep Seaport with the Onitsha and Baro River ports for the transportion of containerised and non-containerised cargoes for shipping efficiency in Nigeria,” Sambo said.
Continuing, the minister observed 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 will not only engage civilians but security forces to escort cargoes to be delivered.
The terms of reference of the TWG include carrying out legal, financial and technical due diligence on Messrs DIDs Ltd. home and abroad; the documentation of all data and raw material collected from the survey and the operational processes, for security and future use for the development of a robust project structuring report (PRS); the application of X-ray policies to put the inland waterways channel to good economic use and negotiation of what is accruable to FGN/NIWA in every operation and any other responsibility as may be directed by the minister.
The 18-man TWG is made up of technocrats from the National Inland Waterways, Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigeria Navy, among others, with the permanent secretary, transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani as chairman; the managing director, NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, as alternate chairman and the deputy general manager, business development, NIWA, Hassan Kaka, as secretary.