What is the state of various River Ports in the country as report has it that those ports are abandoned?
The report that these facility are decaying is not true. Let me start with the Onitsha port which has been reported in most cases. We agreed it was a concession that has lasted for a very long time but I remembered that we explain here why that was the case.
The Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) took over the funding of the concessionaire and they have a kind of methodology that is cumbersome.
You have to appoint a transaction adviser and they have to advertise for the concessionaires and so many other things. Had it been it was NIWA that was sponsoring the project, we would have finished it.
In any case, the concession has been completed.
We have also completed Baro port. We have supply the cargo handling equipment and right now as I speak to you, the cargo handling equipment are being installed by the German experts and any moment before the end of the year am very sure that President Muhammadu Buhari will commission the port.
On the access road, which has been a challenge, we have been talking with ministry of Power, Works and Housing and other relevant stakeholders. We thank God that in this year’s budget, a provision has been provided for the road that links Baro port to Lokoja-Abuja expressway.
Lokoja port, we are at 75 per cent completion. In fact, in order for us to fasttrack the port, we have engaged another contractor to hasten the completion of Lokoja port and by the grace of God before the end of this year maybe the port will also be commissioned by the President.
Also, Makurdi port is on the drawing board. If you remember, it was awarded about two or three years back but because of funding, we couldn’t commence, but it is now in our plans.
Oguta port as well, we are completing it this year too. Then again on channel management because where ever you have landing port, you also need to maintain your channels just like Nigerian Ports Authority does.
We are also talking to some international companies to partner us so that we can have easy way of maintaining our channels. Because our channels are longer than those of NPA, we are talking about from Lagos to Onitsha through to Warri, Lokoja and Baro, you can see is a long stretch.
On the general restructuring of NIWA, the good news is the bill before the National Assembly that has been there for about 10 years now but has been passed by the two chambers. What this bill will do for NIWA is that it will create financial independence for the agency. We will no longer rely on government subvention.
Can you give us the name of the concessioner of the Onitsha river ports?
No, we cannot give it out now because the award letter has not been issued. Until the award letter is issued before we can give the names. About two companies are qualified and we have picked the most competitive of the two.
How many years are they going to use?
We are giving them 25 years
What is the draft of the water front?
The draft is up to 8 meters, but you don’t even need up to eight meters. The river that crosses about 10 countries in Europe the average draft is 2.5 meters because we are talking of flat bottom badges and not ocean-going vessels with 2000 metric tonnes capacity badge which is equivalent to about 50 trailers.
You see the second Niger bridge is being constructed now, all the equipment of the concession of this bridge was brought by Julius Berger by water using River Niger from Lagos here and the capacity of this badge is 2000 metric tonnes. All these drafts we are talking about, mind you we are talking of dry season not rainy season, rainy season even 5000 metric tonnes can pass.
The authority wants to start movement of containers with badges but why don’t you start this pilot test from Lagos looking at the nuisance happening at the port access road. This is the time we need inland contribution more than ever.
Right now we are talking to about three companies. One of them wants to move containers from Apapa Tin-Can to Mile 2 and from there trailers will now pick.
Another one is moving its cargo from Tin-Can and Apapa to Epe and the last one is moving to Warri using our dock yard in Warri, then from there trailers can now pick to other parts of the country.
You know basically government is just a landlord and a regulator, but the reason we want to partake in the operation is because we want to convince the private sector that things are viable, that is why we want to set the pace. Meanwhile we are talking to private sector in these regards.
.Don’t you think the crises between Lagos state government and NIWA will affect this initiative?
The crises between NIWA and Lagos state is about regulation.
With the illegal activities on waterways, how many patrol boats do you have to tackle this?
We have 20 patrol boats. We have three in Lagos and normally we have 20 offices nationwide but we are buying more.
How does NIWA resolve issues of water hyacinth?
NIWA year in year out budgeted heavily for water hyacinth clearance both manually and mechanically. Manually is where this machine cannot enter narrow creeks and mechanically is when we use machine. Mind you, we are talking of over 10,000 kilometer waterways in Nigeria, you can now see how massive it is. Also,water hyacinth is an international issue because it flows from country to country.
But we intend to introduce boom, it is usually placed on channels, when water hyacinth flows, they will hang there, also we intend to have an international conference on water hyacinth challenges so that we can have collaboration of all countries along River Niger.
What is NIWA doing on abandoned vessels?
We have engaged private companies that have come with their proposal to clear this wreck. As I speak to you, they are working on it. Also in Port-Harcourt we have used government money to clear this wreck. This wreck is like water hyacinth that if you remove one today another ship owner will abandon new one and run away.
What is the financial commitment to dredging of River Niger?
Right now we are starting afresh, so we can say for now until when the contractors summit their document before we will know.
How do you intend to tackle piracy and what are the security measures put in place?
We are doing a lot about security. NIWA as an agency of government has a police command attached to it. Besides, if you go through Lokoja, you will see a new naval base. So they use our own patrol boats. So, we collaborate to work with Navy although we have our own Police.