The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) on Friday said the development of river ports around Oguta in Imo State, Lokoja in Kogi State and others suffered setback because of paucity of funds.
The managing director of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu, disclosed this in Lagos while meeting with stakeholders in the maritime sector after a facility tour of NIWA facilities.
He said some of the ports had been completed and were waiting to be handed over to private operators. Moghalu said the Baro and Onitsha river ports were 100 per cent complete, while the Oguta and Lamata river ports in Lokoja were 60 per cent ready.
To facilitate the completion of the Oguta river port, he said NIWA was holding talks with the Imo State government and had received their commitment to the project.
He said, “We are looking for cheap funds to develop the ports. Cost of funding in Nigerian commercial banks is too high.”
He said the Onitsha river port would be given to a concessionaire very soon while Baro port was almost ready but for the poor access road.
“The Niger State government is already addressing the challenge of the Baro port access road,” he stated.
Moghalu who promised to continue all the abandoned river port projects in the country noted that if the ports were functional, they would facilitate the movement of people and goods across the country and ease the gridlock along the Apapa port access road.
He said, “In view of the growing transportation needs particularly in moving bulk commodities, our country dearly needs diversification and development of its critical infrastructure in the area of waterways transportation.”
According to him, the pressure on the roads and carnage associated with road transportation will be reduced, if inland waterways are made navigable.
He noted, “Nigeria has about 10,000 kilometres of inland waterways which cut across 28 states, but only 3,000 kilometres are navigable all year round. If we can activate more waterways and water transport can become more viable, government will earn more revenue, the pressure on our roads will be reduced too.”
Speaking further, he said NIWA was currently clearing the water hyacinth and removing wrecks along the waterways to make them more navigable.
On safety, he disclosed that the agency had contracted an American company to supply life jackets, adding that no passenger would use NIWA jetty without life jacket.
He also said the authority was putting a stop to boats plying the waterways at night or early in the morning without navigational aids.
“Uncertified and rickety boats found along the waterways would be impounded and any unlicensed or unqualified captain would be arrested,” the NIWA boss said.