By Kenneth Jukpor
A group known as Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative (MAIN), has called for the resignation of the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi and his subsequent probe by the National Assembly.
MAIN made this call following the Transport Minister’s revelation on national television that the nation’s four river ports which have gulped billions of Nigeria’s scarce revenue were white elephant projects.
A press release signed by the Executive Director, MAIN, Mr. Sesan Onileimo said, “It was shocking to watch a Minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; in this case, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi recently on the Nigerian Television Authourity (NTA), where he wrote-off the nation’s four river ports, located in Anambra, Imo, Kogi and Niger states.
“Amaechi was seen on a live Television programme proudly and arrogantly demarketing the four river ports, that is after Government had committed several billions of Naira.”
On the four ports, he said: “I had this conversation with my friend, Senator Goje about the viability of the river ports that we have including Onitsha, Baro, Lokoja and Oguta river ports and I felt that it was a waste of funds”.
The group queried the Minister for allowing the government commit billions into the river ports when he knew that they were a waste of fund, as he declared also that, “to have those river ports functional, you must have to dredge River Niger. For now, even if you dredge, it is still 2.5 to 3 metre draft, which determines the vessel that can go there and the minimum you can have is a six-metre vessel. There is absolutely no vessel that will come in there at 2.5 to 3 metres draft!”
Apart from the draft limitation which he alluded to, the group also criticized the Minister for acknowledging particularly that Baro port isn’t viable and can not enjoy the patronage of importers as Amaechi said: “The idea when the Baro port was concessioned is that, you pick up a cargo maybe in Warri or Port Harcourt because Lagos is too far, and put it on a barge and move it to Baro. But how many times will the barge be able to move those cargoes to Baro?”
“So, Mr Amaechi knew very well that the distance between Warri port in Delta state and Port Harcourt port in Rivers state is too long to make Baro port serviceable by badges, yet he recommended its completion and deceived President Muhammadu Buhari to commission the river port?” the group queried.
According to the group, the Minister’s actions and statements show that he cared less about Nigeria as he committed huge funds on projects he knew would be nonfunctional.
MAIN argued that in a saner clime, the Minister of Transportation would have been forced to resign because of his insincerity with the affairs of state that he superintends.
“In some countries, Mr Amaechi would have been jailed or charged for deliberately wasting national revenue. But such hardly happens in climes such as ours, where demons are canonized because of political clouts. How dare Mr Amaechi insult the collective intelligence of Nigerians, the nation’s transport sector, and indigenes of the states and towns where those river ports are located? How could he willfully waste so much money on projects he understood to be worthless,” the group lamented.
As the Minister of Transportation, can Amaechi on oath, say that these ports that he glowingly condemned were not subjected to feasibility study. If they were
MAIN demanded for the feasibility studies on the river port projects, which should have guided the investment. The group also asked if the River ports were subjected to analysis in terms of their Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threats (SWOT).
“We call on the Minister of Transportation; Mr Rotimi Amaechi to resign for encouraging revenue wastages on the nation’s river ports. By his own admission, the ports are white elephant projects, that were not meant to serve the nation’s interest, but the parochial and selfish interest of a few politicians.”
“We also call on the National Assembly to probe the state of affairs at the four ports. For Baro, the lawmakers should find out why it has remained useless two years after it was commissioned. For Onitsha, it is time to ask the Minister why the river port has not been concessioned or put to use, despite its full completion. We also urge the lawmakers to dig into the situation of things at the Oguta and Lokoja port, because huge funds have been expended on them,” the group added.