By Kenneth Jukpor
Mr. Muritala Ajibola Ogboye is an Assistant General Manager (AGM) Human Resources at the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Lagos Area Office. After receiving a delegation of Women in Maritime (WIMA) Nigeria during a visit to mark the World Oceans Day last week, Ogboye discussed with MMS Plus on several pertinent maritime sector issues, highlighting the place of women as well as the opportunities and threats to the nation’s maritime sector.
Women have a unique role to play in the maritime sector and that gives credence to the theme of 2019 World Oceans Day which is ‘Gender and the Ocean’. What’s the place for women at NIWA?
At NIWA, women play prominent roles because we understand that there are women engineers that are doing exploits. In the Lagos Area office, the head of the Marine Department is a woman and a woman is also the head of Research Planning & Environment, Aisha Eri.
Although, we don’t have women at the managerial level in terms of the decision making level at the NIWA headquarters, I wouldn’t be surprised to see women get there soonest because they have all it takes to be key players at that level. I also know that our amiable Managing Director, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora is gender friendly and he would be willing to promote the feminine brand where necessary.
Recently, NIWA entered a partnership with Sealink and NEXIM Bank for the evacuation of cargoes from the ports using barges and the Lagos Area office is tipped to be central to these operations. What’s your take on this?
Over the years we have had the problem of congestion at the ports and one of the ways identified to solve the problem is the utilization of the waterways for movement of cargoes via the inland waterways.
For example a big tonnage barge cargoes that would require twenty trailers. That Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is part of the government’s effort to bridge the infrastructure gap and provide an alternative mode of evacuation of goods from seaports via the nation’s inland waterways.
With the efficient utilization of the inland waterways as an alternative to the roads for cargo evacuation at ports, there would be fewer trucks on the port access roads, there would be less carnage and accidents and the roads would last longer. At the end of the day, all operators as well as the nation’s economy would be better as a result of this development.
NIWA is delighted to partner with NEXIM and Sealink Promotional Company and its strategic consortium partners in the facilitation of bulk cargo movement on inland waterways and promoting hinterland and transit trade.
That MOU would support the survey, underwater engineering works, removable and disposal of wrecks among several other projects geared towards improving and developing inland waterways navigation.
The utilization of inland waterways for transportation of passengers in coastal areas like Lagos is still relatively low. What are the prospects for this business in Lagos?
The maritime sector is a very capital intensive sector. Addressing the transportation and traffic challenges of a complex mega city like Lagos has been a foremost concern of successive administrations in the state. Evidently, the need to develop other means of transportation cannot be over-emphasized; given the complex nature of the sector in the state and waterways is a viable option.
In view of its unique topography, Lagos has great potential to develop water transportation to a highly competitive level. Since 25% of the state’s landmass consists of water body, it is just rational for government to look more in this direction in tackling the ever hectic transportation situation in the state.
The good news is that the state government is now more poised to step up efforts toward improving water transportation in the state. The issue is that the sector has to be private sector driven but the fund is massive. A boat is not like a car.
However, the patronage of water transport has also been hampered by water fright. A lot of people in Lagos are scared of the water either as a result of stories they have heard about people who drowned or a boat that capsized or the mere fact that they can’t swim in event of any mishap.
The waterways have immense prospects in Lagos and across the nation but investments in the sector are capital intensive, yet it can’t be left for the government alone. There has to be increased involvement of the private sector to enable the sector grow. The good thing is that people are gradually coming forward to make investments in this sector. As the regulatory body, NIWA is doing its best to ensure that the operators meet the minimum standards and adhere to the safety rules and regulations to ensure that there is less carnage on the waterways.
Marine insurance experts have lamented that most of the boats plying nation’s waterways are uninsured and NIWA ought to be responsible for regulating this. Why has NIWA been less concerned about this aspect of regulation?
This problematic issue is been incorporated in the new NIWA policy. Insurance is a major aspect in that policy. As you buy tickets, you are insured. When you take a boat on the inland waterways, you are covered. From the ticket one buys before taking a ferry, you are covered just like a flight ticket in the aviation sector.
The same emphasis also applies to the vessel insurance itself. Water crafts have to be insured just as cars are insured. Nigeria may not be at that level yet; but this is something that is in the pipeline. Courtesy of the current Managing Director of NIWA, Senator Mamora, critical issues like insurances would be given utmost priority in the new NIWA policy.
How close is Nigeria to having water transport play a significant role in moving goods and persons across states via the waterways?
It would be very difficult to set a timeline when that would be achieved. However, with benefit of hindsight, you would agree with me that the industry has improved tremendously over the years. This feat is not something the government can do alone. There is need for more private sector investment in the sector with colossal sums required. The good thing is that investment in this sector would always be lucrative and the regulatory bodies like NIWA would always be available to make the business environment convenient to support private sector investments.
Presently, there is a serious talk going on between Nigeria and the Chinese government for some Chinese investors planning to come into the waterways transportation in Nigeria. It isn’t just transportation; they are keen to develop the waterways. There’s a programme, policy and collaboration between the Nigerian government and the Chinese government and very soon the details would be made public.