After successfully concessioning the Onitsha River Ports, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), said it has received several proposals for the concession of the N9.4billion Oguta, Baro and Lokoja River Ports.
While the Baro river port has been successfully completed and concessioned by President Muhammadu Buhari, the Oguta and Lokoja River ports are still undergoing construction.
Recall that while the Baro port was built for N2.6billion, Oguta and Lokoja were built for N2.7billon and N4.1billion respectively.
However, speaking on the current state of the river ports across the country, the Managing Director, NIWA, Dr George Moghalu, said the proposal for concessions are being given consideration.
According to him, while private sector operators manage business better, they also have enough funds to complete the construction of the river ports.
He said, “We have received proposals for those who want us to concession Oguta and Lokoja river ports as it is undergoing construction and we are giving them serious consideration because the private sector manages business better.
“We encourage concessioning and that’s why we have Onitsha River Port as our poster boy because we have successfully concessioned Onitsha and what that means is that we can concession others and the private sector are in charge of activities there. That will be a template to guide us.”
The MD, however, stated that the challenge of an access road that has made the Baro river ports non-functional since it was commissioned by the President in 2019 is receiving government attention.
According to him, the federal government has approved the rehabilitation of the rail line while the state government approved the construction of the dilapidated road leading to the port.
He said, “Baro is a world-class port and it has been completed. The challenge we have is not about the port but the access road to the port. Am happy to tell you that the federal government is starting a road project and I engaged the Niger state government where they assured that they will fix the road.
“Also, FG has approved a rail project from Baro to Kano and work is about to start on it. It’s a major milestone for the port because Baro in the precolonial days has a port and when one goes there, we will see relics of the offices of GB Oliver.
“If cargoes come to the port, they should be able to be discharged and will either move by rail or water depending on where the cargoes are going.
He stated that if the river ports are successfully concessioned, the current pressure on the roads will be reduced, thereby, increasing the lifespan of the road.
Moghalu stated that bulk cargoes are moved either by water or rail, saying Nigeria’s case can’t be different in moving heavy cargoes.
“We want to reduce the pressure on our roads. Our roads are not designed to carry the weight they are carrying.
“In civilized societies, bulk cargoes are moved either by water or rail, and ours can’t be different. Those who started it and still doing it must have a reason; there is something they saw that made them adopt the water mode of transport. We will continue to pursue our target until we fully realise it.”
Speaking on the Lagos-Onitsha barge initiatives, the NIWA MD, said he was engaging the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce and Imoorters’ association.
He said, “on the Lagos-Onitsha route, we have done our test runs, and we will continue working on it because we haven’t gotten to where we want to be.
“So what we’ve been doing is to engage several bodies, like the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce and Importers Association of Nigeria to have buy-in, and we’ve been receiving favourable responses.
“I also recently met with the barge operators to offer them quality insurance on both the barges and cargo, as this was one of the issues raised by the importers themselves because they want to secure their goods.
“We discussed with the barge operators for us to have an understanding that we want a reasonable insurance cover for every cargo that will go on the inland waterway, and also for the vessels themselves to be fully insured so that we can give protection to the importer. The project is a prime one for us because we want to decongest our ports.”
Customs, UN agency collaborate to fight smuggling
“On behalf of the entire Management Team of the Nigeria Customs Service, I wish to inform you that we will partner with you in this campaign, and we will grant you all forms of support you may need to carry out this campaign — and I want to assign one of our amiable DCGs, Abba Kura, to work with you closely.”
He appreciated how they traveled from afar to inform the Nigeria Customs Service of their campaign against smuggling, which, according to him, the Nigeria Customs Service has already started yielding positive results in suppressing the menace of smuggling.
The CGC also welcomed Dr Raymond’s offer to engage officers and men of the Service in capacity—building to enhance their understanding of digital literacy skills, adding that the Service has already started embracing technology to advance its work by introducing related courses to officers.
The CGC appreciated the collaborative effort between the Nigeria Customs Service and UN—Habitat and believes that the collaboration signifies a commitment to tackling smuggling and enhancing trade facilitation in the nation, setting the stage for a more prosperous future.
He also appreciated their pledge to train officers and men of the Service in digital literacy skills, assuring that the Service will continue to prioritize proficiency in the fight against smuggling through a technological approach.
He underscored the importance of digital skills, promising that the relevant Service department will enhance trade facilitation.
On his part, the Director of UN—Habitat, Dr. Raymond Edoh, appreciated President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for reposing the responsibility of heading the Nigeria Customs Service on the Acting Comptroller-General, describing him as “a competent Customs officer who knows the terrain and masters the job.”
According to him, they decided to visit the Ag. CGC at the Customs Headquarters to express their interest in partnering with the Service.
He appreciated the Service for being a “gatekeeper of the country” that protects citizens against border threats, stressing that his organization will collaborate with NCS to mitigate the smuggling of illicit goods and train officers and men of Customs on digital literacy skills and certification.
UN-Habitat is the United Nations entity responsible for developing urban policies and translating them into action to create sustainable cities and promote viable urban development and adequate shelter for all.
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