The Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority has stated its commitment to transforming the nation’s waterways even as it says it has already began to reposition the Agency to take advantage of industry potentials.
NIWA’s boss, Dr. George Moghalu stated this on Friday as he addressed industry operators at a stakeholders meeting, which discussed issues bordering on dredging and inland waterways transportation.
Moghalu who was appointed NIWA MD five months ago said a lot of work is ongoing to position the agency rightly.
He disclosed that he has commenced a tour around the 28 functional area offices across the country to meet with stakeholders even as he called on stakeholders to bring forward issues plaguing them.
The MD promised that together with his team, they will deliberate on the solutions and a way forward.
“I want to invite you, please join us, whatever you think we can do, let’s discuss it, we are open for discussion. We want to achieve the best for our nation, we want to build this industry”, Moghalu said.
Describing Lagos State as the maritime capital, the MD said that there are great expectations from Lagos area office and called on the area manager to work closely with the stakeholders to achieve these expectations.
“I have great expectations from Lagos, so Area Manager and your team, please cooperate with your stakeholders. Whatever it is they need for them to prosper, because as they prosper you prosper, whatever you think we should do, please feel free to communicate to the headquarters for we are willing to do it”, Moghalu said.
He said the Agency is working also to address series of complaints received upon his resumption about NIWA’s relationship with the Lagos State government and some stakeholders,
“I had a long meeting with the governor of Lagos State yesterday and I can assure you that all the issues, areas of contention, all will be resolved”, he said adding that NIWA is in partnership with the Lagos state government will set up a team, which will set to work immediately to get all the details worked out and with that he expects that there will no longer be conflicts.
NIWA’s boss said on the issues currently being experienced with the Nigeria Port Authority, his office has begun discussions with the MD of NPA, and every areas of friction will be addressed.
He called on all stakeholders to cooperate with his team and extend a right hand of fellowship in order to move NIWA to the next level.
Following the MD’s address, various stakeholders from different sector of the Maritime industry took turns to bare it all either in the form of a comment, question or suggestion.
Amongst those who expressed their views was the Chairman of the Nigerian Port Consultative Forum, Otunba Tunde Folarin.
Folarin noted that the Nigeria Inland Waterways is key to Nigeria’s economic development. He said there is no other resource or infrastructure for national development than NIWA and therefore they must be conscious of this in all their actions.
He therefore expressed his dissatisfaction over the fact that majority of the river ports in the country are either not working or underperforming.
“Let the river ports start to work. If it’s one, if it’s two, let them start to work. Let the Onitsha River Port start to work, let the Baro River Port start to work”, Folarin admonished.
The former MD of the Nigeria’s Shipper’s Council, Dr Kinsley Usoh, in his remark said if they were to look into the future and do that which is right, then the area of policy must be revisited. He drew the attention of NIWA’s boss to the shallowness of the Nigeria waters, which has resulted in most shipping companies performing below expectation.
The Managing Director of Chase Dredging, Abayomi Idowu, expressed major concerns and worries over the issues of insecurity and safety in the waterways. He said as against international standard and practice, where boat operators adhere to speed limits, Nigerian boat operators have no such regard to safety rules and security guidelines.
“In Venice, when you sit down by the shore and you see the boats, they have speed limits and they have direction. For example, the people going to Lagos they face one side, while those coming out of Lagos they face the other side. But here in Nigeria, it is not so. They just go as they like at any speed and that is causing accidents on the waterways”, Idowu said.
He commended the MD for opening discussions and finding out ways to iron out the issues with the Lagos state government.
In his response to all the issues raised, NIWA’s boss said on the functioning of the various river ports across Nigeria, works are already going to ensure that all the ports are open for business.
He said with the Onitsha port, the process of concession has been completed. He said for the Baro Port, everything is ready for takeoff but the challenge right now is the lack of access road to the port.
However, he said, talks are ongoing with the Niger state government and the Federal Ministry of Works to see that an access road is constructed soonest and in no distant time the port will be ready for concession.
On the issue of safety, Moghalu said he is very concerned with the safety on the waterways and that every effort is been made in that regard.
He said discussions with security agencies have been intensified and this has led to an increase in the manpower allocated to NIWA by the Inspector General of Police, IG.
He said the IG has also promised to furnish the agency with security gadgets.
Moghalu who also addressed a lot of other issues raised and assured stakeholders that their concerns were also the concerns of the agency pledged that his team will not disappoint or fall short of expectations.
Stakeholders present included MDs/CEOs of shipping companies, boat owners/operators, maritime workers union leaders, traditional rulers, dredging companies amongst others.