NIWA Unfolds Inland Waterways Transportation Master-Plan

NIWA Unfolds Inland Waterways Transportation Master-Plan
Barr. Ibrahim Danladi, Acting Managing Director of NIWA,
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After many years of seeming leadership inertia, the National Inland Waterways Authority(NIWA) has unfolded  an inland waterways transportation master-plan capable of effectively  jumpstarting  the much needed multi-modal transportation system in Nigeria.
This is also coming as a response to what has become a perennial traffic gridlock on the Lagos ports access roads, which has not only defied solutions for years now but has destroyed the road infrastructure and architectures as well as the human psyche.
Speaking with a select media friends in Lagos, the Acting Managing Director of NIWA, Barr.  Ibrahim Danladi divulged that his agency had consummated a relationship with some Chinese firms who are ready to help the agency build a modern bonded terminal at Oyingbo Jetty, Lagos  from where containers can be moved from Apapa and Tin can Ports on badges and transported by either rail or road to destinations or move by water ways to Onitsha and Warri at the eastern part of the country.
According to him, there is also a plan to transform their Marina, Lagos office into an ultra-modern superstructure as a terminal where sea going vessels can berth  and  off-load cargoes.
He added:” We are going to have super structure here like in Dubai. We have almost concluded an arrangement with a company to move cargoes  and passengers from Lagos, Nigeria to Tema in Ghana and their take off point in Lagos will be here in Marina. So, there is going to be a relationship between Nigeria and Ghana through the movement of cargo and  persons.”
Explaining why NIWA had to begin a direct investment in the sector instead of opting for private public partnership(PPP) he said that investors  shy away from investing in the sector because  inland water transport is under-developed in Nigeria.” Since the private sector is not interested let the Federal Government show the way by leading by example.”
“If we lead by example and we are sure it is viable, doable and profitable then the  private sector will queue in. It will become more attractive when government says that there are certain categories of goods that must not be moved by road. You will be given three years moratorium after which no petroleum  product must be transported by road. They either use rail or inland water transportation. Also, no cement must be moved by road because they kill the roads and cause  accidents and claim lives whereas we can  move them faster,safer, and cheaper by rail or water,” he added.
He also noted that through one of their Chinese partners they had  identified a shipping company that can ship cargo to Nigeria from China and then be transported by waterways to destination.
Consequently, they had agreed to bring in 20 badges  and some tugboats to commence operations so that they  could use them to attract private sector investors into inland waterways transport.  
According to Danladi,” We are currently speaking with three companies to move cargo from Apapa, Tin Can to Mile 2 where trailers can now pick the cargo. One wants to move cargo from Tin Can and Apapa  to Epe and from there trailers will pick. There is another one that wants to move cargo to all the way to our dockyard in Warri  from where trailers can now pick and move to other parts of the country by road. Basically, government is just a landlord and a regulator. The reason we want to partake in the operation is because we want to convince the private sector that these ventures are viable.”
 On the agency’s preparedness against robbery and piracy at sea, the NIWA boss stated that they had acquired 20 patrol boats which are spread all over the 20 Area offices of NIWA in the country.
While confirming that the Onitsha and Baro  River ports have been concessioned through a competitive process, he added that the concessionaire of Onitsha port is of Igbo origin to make the management of the port easy.
As the concessionaires of the various River ports prepare to take over their ports, NIWA  is gearing up to assume financial independence following the expected passage of their new bill called “Nigeria Inland Waterways  Bill” into Act. Both chambers of the National Assembly have passed the bill while  President Mohammadu Buhari is expected to give his assent soon.
The bill when passed into law, according to Danladi, will grant NIWA financial  autonomy to NIWA like the Nigerian Ports Authority(NPA) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA), adding, “We are close to solving our funding problems”.
 In his words, “On the general restructuring of NIWA, the good news is that the Bill before the National Assembly that has been there for about ten years now has been passed by the two chambers. The bill will create financial independence for the agency. We will no longer be relying on government subvention. We will be financially independent just like NPA and NIMASA. The will also resolve most of the conflicts we have with our sister agencies and even the state governments. It will also expand the capacity of the agency and create room for Private Public Partnership (PPP) because government alone cannot do it. We need the private sector to partner us to develop the inland waterways.”
Explaining why  Onitsha port took the Federal Government over 30 years to concession, he said,” Let me start with the Onitsha port. Agreed it was a concession that has lasted for a long time.  But we did explain why that was the case. The  Central Bank of Nigeria(CBN) took over the funding of the concession exercise and they adopted  a methodology that is cumbersome. They had to appoint  a Transaction Adviser  who had to advertise for  the concessionaires and so many other procedures.
“If it were NIWA that handled it we would have completed it long ago. However, the  concession exercise has been completed . We opened the financial bid on  July 3rd 2018 and we picked the most competitive bidder and the concessionaire will soon take over the Onitsha River Port.
“We have also completed Baro port. We have supplied the cargo handling equipment. As I speak now the cargo handling equipment are being installed by German experts. And before the end of the year I am sure the President will commission Baro Port. The access roads have been a challenge but we have been talking with the Federal Government on, the Federal Ministry of Works in particular and other relevant stakeholders.  We thank God that the 2018 budget has provision for the roads that links the Baro port, Onitsha to Lokoja-Abuja Expressway.
“Lokoja  River Port, we have reached 75 percent completion. To fast track work at the port, we have engaged another contractor to work with the present contractor.  And it is expected that by the end of the year the two ports will be commissioned by the President. The Makudi River Port is on the drawing board. Recall that it was awarded about three years back but because of lack of fund we could not commence. However, we are now on the drawing board to commence it in 2019. Ugwuta River Port will be completed this year. It is in our 2018 budget, he added.

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