Written by Dele Aderibigbe, Lagos Wednesday, 29 August 2012
THE commercial importance of Onitsha may be set for a significant boost as President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan commissions the nation’s largest river port in the city on Thursday (tomorrow), in furtherance of government’s policy push for enhanced investments in Nigeria’s waterways.
The preparation for the commissioning of the Onitsha River Port Complex, according to investigation, followed an extensive overhaul of the river port, completed with new facilities, warehouses and equipment which included cranes and forklifts.
Funded by the Federal Government, the refurbishment which was at the instance of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), was expected to fully restore the port to its original splendour and enable the country offer new levels of operational efficiency in river port systems.
Before the overhaul which was handled by Inter-Bau Construction Limited, the port had suffered years of neglect, under-utilisation and disrepair.
Earlier commissioned by the Shehu Shagari administration in 1983 before it was fully completed, the Onitsha river port thereafter soon slipped into a state of under-utilisation and disrepair, forcing operators of ferries and other economic vessels to abandon it.
“The reconditioned river port complex will serve as a massive boost and complement to the newly dredged lower River Niger,” posited the NIWA Deputy General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mr Tayo Fadile, adding that President Jonathan and other key government dignitaries coming for the event would be hosted by the trio of the Minister of Transport Senator Idris A. Umar, the Anambra State Governor, Mr Peter Obi and the NIWA Managing Director, Ahmed Yar’Adua.
“With the River Niger fully dredged and the waterways well protected by NIWA patrol boats and the Marine Police, the Onitsha river port has received a new lease of life,” the image-maker explained further, stressing that President Jonathan had directed that concerted efforts be made to foreclose any likelihood of the river port not being optimally utilised.
Meanwhile, the President has also directed the Federal Ministry of Transport to focus more on how the nation’s river channels and creeks could improve their contribution to the desired growth of the nation’s economy, especially as part of government’s on-going bid to impact on the grassroots.
Senator Umar, who disclosed this while receiving the members of the committee the ministry inaugurated in January this year, highlighted that not only could a lot more be achieved for the country, using inland water transportation, but that concerted efforts and synergy be brought to bear on the parastatals under the Transport Ministry so as to achieve the goal of transforming the nation’s inland water transportation sector.
Specifically, the Senator tasked the committee to identify all navigable waters and creeks in Nigeria, plus factors inhibiting sustainable inland water transportation and proffer concrete solutions for them, stressing that the committee’s recommendations would be genuinely appraised and implemented.
“Our target is to see how best this country can utilise the river channels and creeks for maximum economic benefits,” he said.