With increasing loss of vision, and candour, Government parastatal within the maritime sub-sector, including the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) may have embarked on monumental waste of Government assets.
Assets can be described as capital expenditure incurred with the tax payers labour, but soon after abandoned to waste and decay, either due to the usual lack of maintenance culture, a loss of original vision, or unwillingness to sustain the momentum of a past initiative.
Investigation by NOMMA showed that the current anomaly if not corrected would not only further fuel waste of Government assets, but become a waiting snare capable of withering the zeal of incoming appointees who may think it is the order of the day in the Nigerian Maritime sector.
Worse hit may be the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), which it was learnt procured a giant ferry at hundreds of milion’s of Naira, with Government’s funds, named it the MF Onitsha; operated the giant ferry briefly, after few years of wastage of resources, thereafter, abandoned it.
MF Onitsha had since been tucked beyond the public view, at Oyingbo, and anyone who hopes to find it may have to seek it out the way archaeologists dig for artefacts!
It could not be confirmed, but one of our sources highlighted that years after its abandonment, the MF Onitsha was brought out and repaired with about N40m. It was then deployed to run errands, carrying passengers and performing such functions around Marina, in Lagos.
But not much was known of it, especially in terms of any remarkable performance, before it was again abandoned at a highly unsecured place at Oyingbo. That never made ferry totally useless.
Apart from becoming a reliable companion to a gunboat of the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) at berth, it also served as a towering companion of a number of fishing, passenger canoes and work vessels sailing by, and several other boats, who turned the MF Onitsha into living quarters for a mixed crowd of squatters.
Before its rehabilitation and relaunch, the MF Onitsha had lain fallow at berth for long at the Lagos Marina Jetty, serving as a walkway for passengers boarding and disembarking from other ferries forced to double bank and use the more sizeable MF Onitsha as berth.
And at an even more ignominious level during those inglorious days, the MF Onitsha had also served as abode for so-called ‘area boys’ and other undesirables, as well for sex hawkers who featured there and made brisk patronage.
As at Friday, April 5, 2019, the passenger ferry, MF Onitsha, was still abandoned at the Oyingbo Jetty in Lagos, a state it had been since the last 12 years.
The vessel today has deteriorated so much that some informed sources while wondering how the vessel came to such inglorious retirement, politely advised that the only solution left for MF Onitsha is to scrap it.
The investigation had wanted to know how much million Naira was expended on it before it was abandoned the second time. But then, NIWA failed to respond.
What is known however, was that, the NIWA proceeded in 2016 to acquire another boat built in 2016 by Sealink Marine Boatyard Lagos, and actually launched same in May 2016.
The boat appeared more costly, and could be classed as state of the art ferry. It was probably procured at mind blowing millions of Naira; and perhaps being dazed by its sheer beauty simply named it NIWA! Truly, it was a beauty to behold!
Sadly, in the authority’s usual characteristics, the costly ferry merely served for few months, before it was withdrawn out of circulation, so as to enable it rot!
On Friday April 5, 2019, when NOMMA visited the ferry once celebrated with funfare in Lekki, it was a not easily recognised eyesore!
Variously, efforts were made to get official reaction of NIWA, but visits and messages to the Lagos Area Office General Manager, Mr. Mu’azu Sambo did not yield results.
When responses were not received from the Lagos Area Office, the intervention of the NIWA General Manager, Public Rekations, Mr. Tayo Fadile was sought, but he merely advised that the inquiries be made with Sambo, since the subject of focus was in Lagos.
Determined for a balanced report of the issue on ground, the team made another round of pursuit for answers from the NIWA Lagos Area Office, and was told that the initial inquiry was referred to the Marine Department, which failed to respond even after more than three weeks.
The decision reached is to dedicate quality time to publishing and making public, whatever NIWA finally comes up with!
But, anyone who believes that NOMMA erred by bringing its report up only after the assets were gone may adopt a forgiving mood when one realizes that the case with the NIMASA is still redeemable.
The nation’s apex maritime body very much knew it had no business acquiring a floating dock as a regulatory body. It nonetheless acquired one new built which gulped billions of Naira in 2014.
The agency gave two non-ignorable reasons for acquiring it: being highly capital intensive, it was a no go area for non-governmental body, despite the dare need for it.
Secondly, it would help Government attract hard currency for government, in addition to providing basic laboratory workshop for students of Maritime University, Okerenkoko when the school finally takes off.
Sadly, when the NIMASA floating dock sailed into the country in early 2018, despite the glowing rays of hope that came with it, the dock is yet to earn a dime.
Rather, it had been gulping additional funds, denominated in Dollars, not only to provide enhanced security for it where it was tucked, the floating dock is also being maintained at hush hushed cost!
—To be continued