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Lagos waterways set for major upgrades as NIWA targets wreck removal, licensing 2,200 boats



By Seun Ibiyemi

The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has announced targets for 2024, aiming to enhance the inland waterways infrastructure in Lagos and improve overall safety and efficiency.

Speaking at a press briefing in Lagos, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of NIWA, Munirudeen Oyebamiji, outlined several key goals for the year, including removing five wrecks obstructing navigation across the inland waterways in Lagos, licensing 2,200 boats, and training 1,500 skippers.

Oyebamiji emphasised the importance of increasing the navigable waterways in Nigeria, setting a target to dredge an additional 2,000 kilometers, ultimately raising the total navigable inland waterways from 3,000 kilometres to 5,000 kilometres.

According to him, “One of the targets I gave the Area Managers when I resumed is on increasing the number of navigable waterways that we currently have in this country.

“Nigeria has about 10,000kilometres of waterways in this country, but anytime you search via Google, you will always find out that only 3,000kilometres are navigable. I have given the Area Managers a target of increasing navigable waterways in Nigeria from 3,000kilometres to 5,000kilometres.

“This means that as part of the deliverables that I gave the Area Managers, NIWA has to dredge an additional 2,000kilometres of waterways to meet the target of 5,000kilometres of navigable inland waterways.

“Also, another target I gave the Area Managers is tied to the number of jetties that NIWA has. I asked them to give me the number of jetties that they want to add to what they already have. In the next four years, we need to know the number of jetties that we will want to build so that by 2027, we would have said that this number of jetties were built during this period.

“Also, on the issue of wrecks, I gave each Area numbers of wrecks to remove. Lagos, being our busiest Area, got a target of five wrecks to remove yearly. Again, on boat operations, I expect 2,200 boats to be licensed on a yearly basis in Lagos. Also, I have charged the Lagos Area Managers to train and license 1,500 Skippers on a yearly basis.

“So all this formed part of the targets that I gave to each Area Managers during our meetings for them to measure their performance in office on a yearly basis. This will let everybody have a sense of direction and know what they are expected to do.”

Oyebamiji explained that Lagos, being the hub of inland waterways activities in Nigeria, has already seen the deployment of five patrol boats focusing on key areas such as Badagry, Badore, Ikorodu, Ijegun, and Marina.

He said the patrol boats will monitor and address waterways issues, including over speeding and overloading, ensuring increased safety and regulatory compliance.

“With the Supreme Court judgement, we cannot afford to have any lapses any longer. Going forward, we have deployed five patrol boats across the waterways in Lagos, being our busiest axis.

“One patrol boat has been taken to Badagry to cover that axis. Another has been taken to Badore; another one has been deployed at Ikorodu; another deployed at Ijegun while the last one is at Marina here.

“The deployment of these patrol boats was strategic. Take for instance the choice of Ijegun. You know Badagry is far, so if anything happens along the waterways leading to Badagry, before the patrol boat stationed in Badagry arrives, the one in Ijegun would have got there.

“The patrol boats have been deployed along this axis to monitor waterways issues like over speeding, overloading and others. The deployment of these patrol boats is just a way of increasing our presence on the waterways.

“We have also installed a Gauge inside the water here in Marina. The Gauge gives us information about the wave movement. It monitors wave movement and gives us information of what to expect every day. The Gauge has a range of monitoring from Marina to Badagry and Ikorodu,” he said.

In addition to Lagos, Oyebamiji said NIWA is exploring plans to deploy boats in the Northern part of the country, addressing safety concerns related to the use of rickety boats.

He said the agency also aims to establish Water Marshals nationwide, replicating successful initiatives already in place in Lagos.

“We are also looking at deploying some boats in the Northern part of the country because accidents happen in this area due to the rickety boats that are used. We also want to have Water Marshals across the country. This is already in place in Lagos, but we want to replicate that nationwide,” he said.


NIWA to allow installmental payments for boat operators training



By Seun Ibiyemi

Following appeals from boat operators on flexible payments for training, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has approved installmental payments to encourage more participation.

The Managing Director of NIWA, Mr. Munirudeen Oyebamiji, gave this concession during a training programme for boat operators in Lagos on Saturday.

Oyebamiji, who was represented by the Lagos Area Manager, Engr. Sarat Braimah, observed that with the option of installments, no operator would have excuses to avoid the training.

“If the operators pay 30 percent of the fee, they can start the training and another 30 percent should be paid during the training. Before receiving their certificates, they should have completed the total payments. This approach is to get everyone onboard with the training. Training is key and it’s better we work together to achieve it.

“The training fee is N80,000 and this covers a period of 3 years. After this payment, the next fees for recertification only costs N16,000 yearly. When you break down the N80,000 into a 3-year span, you’ll find that it costs less than N75 per day,” the NIWA boss said.

According to the NIWA boss, boat operators must have a minimum of 4 lifebuoys on their crafts as she observed that one lifebuoy could save up to 6 people during a boat mishap.

In a bid to maintain safe operations on the Lagos waterways, the NIWA boss also noted that the Authority will commence frequent patrols along the inland waterways.

“NIWA patrol boats will commence monitoring and inspections along the Lagos waterways. With almost 50 members of staff at NIWA Lagos office, 38 police officials, 100 joint task force (JTF) personnel and our collaboration with Marine Police; I believe we have sufficient manpower to carry out frequent patrols which will stimulate the boat operators to conduct their operations in a safe manner,” the regulator said.

During the meeting, some boat operators decried lack of funds to change their boats and beckoned on the federal government to allow them access the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) for financial support.

The operators also alleged that some government agencies extort them on the inland waterways along the Badagry creeks, fingering Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), Marine Police, Nigeria Immigration Service (NIS), among others as the extortionists.

Top waterways operators including the President of Waterfront Boat Owners and Transporters Association (WABOTAN), Mr. Tope Fajemirokun; representatives of Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN) and Association of Tourist Boat Operators and Water Transporters of Nigeria (ATBOWATON) graced the occasion which had over 250 boat captains and deckhands from the Badagry region.

The boat captains and deckhands were also trained on how to avoid boat accidents, best approaches during boat mishaps to save lives and minimise casualties, while they also learnt how to manage their vessels for durability and efficient operations.

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Shippers’ Council hosts West African Container Terminal team



The Nigerian Shippers’ Council, South-South Zonal office in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, last week played host to a team of management staffers from the West African Container Terminal WACT, located within the Onne Ports Complex, who was on a courtesy visit to the country’s Economic Regulator for the seaport industry.

Speaking during the visit, Zonal Coordinator of the Council, Mr. Glory Onojedo, who led other top management staff to give a warm reception to the visiting team, thanked the management of WACT for finding time to visit the Council.

He listed some of the challenges encountered by officials of the Council in trying to perform their duties of enforcing the mandate of the Council to include the inability to access WACT facilities, as they were prevented by the security personnel of the company.

He further disclosed that the NSC officials are usually stopped at the entrance of the WACT office by these security personnel, which he suspected was a deliberate effort to stop the Council’s officials from overseeing the port activities at the WACT terminal.

While acknowledging some of the challenges that were being faced at Onne, which include but not limited to poor state of access roads, which are currently being fixed, Mr. Onojedo lauded WACT for providing shelter for agencies and other stakeholders operating at Onne Seaport, as well as its newly introduced initiative known as Container Freight Station (CFS).

On its recently launched Online Registration Portal for port operators and users, Mr. Onojedo noted that the essence of the registration portal is for Nigerian Shippers’ Council to know the real players across the ports, pointing out that a time would come when those players that are not registered or recognised by Shippers’ Council will not have access to the ports across the nation, adding that the essence of regulation is to ensure compliance.

Meanwhile, General Manager, Government Relations, WACT, Mr. Innocent Ogbuji, who led the delegation on the visit, said the essence of the visit was to inform the Council that WACT recently reshuffled its management team, hence the need to introduce the new team to the Nigerian Shippers’ Council.

Mr. Ogbuji, who also spoke on the digitalised nature of WACT’s operations at the Onne Port, among others, lauded Mr. Glory Onojedo for being supportive to WACT, and used the visit to proffer solutions on the issues of non -accessibility to WACT, among others that were raised by Mr. Onojedo, for onward unlimited access and communication with WACT.

The new Managing Director of WACT Mr. Jeethu Jose and the new Commercial Manager, Mr. Ismaila Badjie, who were among the visiting team, expressed their heart-felt gratitude on the warm reception accorded them by the NSC team.

While responding on some of the issues raised during the visit, which hinged on mutual working relationship, seamless operations and working in synergy to boost the economy of the country the duo assured that the new management team of WACT was poised for a robust synergy with all agencies and relevant stakeholders to enhance seamless port operations.

Director, Public Relations of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Mrs. Patricia Osumaw in her closing remarks, commended the MD of WACT, Mr. Jeethu Jose and his management team for such a wonderful visit. She requested that such interactions and collaborative meetings should be more frequent to enhance their respective work performances.

High points of the visit include the formal introduction of the two new management officers and signing of the visitors’ register by Mr. Jeethu Jose.

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NIWA issues three-month ultimatum for mandatory training, license by boat operators



In a bid to enhance water safety and address recent spates of mishaps, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Lagos Area Office has organised a pivotal industry meeting and safety sensitisation program for boat skippers and deck hands operating in Lagos waterways.

Engr. Sarat Braimah, the NIWA Lagos Area Manager, during the meeting at the Area Office in Lagos on Saturday underscored the significance of the meeting, stating its primary purpose was to address challenges faced by boat operators, express concerns, and collectively strategise a way forward. She lamented the recent surge in mishaps, emphasising that ensuring the safety of waterways is a shared responsibility.

Highlighting the lack of basic safety measures among boat operators, Braimah announced NIWA’s collaboration with certified trainers to provide training at the rate of N80,000. Upon successful completion, operators will receive a license valid for three years, renewable upon expiration.

Braimah also noted that boat operators are granted a three-month window to undergo training and obtain licenses, after which enforcement will commence. She stressed that errant operators failing to comply will face sanctions and prosecution.

NIWA HOD Marine, Mrs. Elsie Egwantu, stressed the importance of refreshing memories and sensitising operators on safety measures. She urged operators to actively participate, express concerns, and engage in the process.

During the session, boat operators voiced concerns about inadequate remuneration, receiving a meager N3,000 per day with only one day off work. To meet trip targets, some operators admitted to managing faulty engines, leading to overspeeding.

They explained that the rush to beat the 7:00 pm jetty closure time, avoiding a N50,000 penalty from LASWA, contributed to the unsafe practices.

The event saw the participation of over 180 boat captains from various jetties, including Ebute Ero, Majidun, Mayegun, Ijede, Ibeshe, Ofin, Badore, and Ajah.

Notably, nine boat captains have already undergone the training, obtaining the necessary certification and license.

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