I am delighted to welcome you all to the first International Conference and Exhibition organised by the National Inland Waterways Authority. This conference is historic because this is the first time we have gathered stakeholders and intellectuals in the Inland Waterways Sub-sector to brainstorm and provide a roadmap for repositioning and improving activities on the inland waterways”.
The above are the words of the Managing Director (MD) of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Hajia Mariam Ciroma at the International Conference and Exhibition (NIWA ICE 2014) with the theme: Modernizing Inland Waterways Infrastructure and Vessels for Safe and Sustainable Inland Water Transportation in Nigeria organised by the Authority, last week.
Brainstorming, synergy and opinion sharing are certainly some of the tools employed by any organisation or individual who is determined to make a change in his endeavours and by extension, the environment.
Desirous to make a change and move from where it is to where it should be, and to be able to compete favourably in the maritime sector with other agencies of the government, the Board and Management of NIWA organised an International conference to parley with other stakeholder in a bid to achieving a substantial feat in the country and to take the agency to a higher level.
Transportation being the bedrock of the economy of any nation and Inland Waterways augmenting the efforts of the land, rail and air transportation systems in Nigeria especially Lagos where land transportation has become a nightmarish experience due to traffic gridlocks and bad roads, the inland waterways can hold way in this era.
As it is beginning to gain popularity and acceptability among the teeming populace of Nigerians, the government has in the recent time invested massively in the subsector to ease transportation and to engender employment. This is one of the factors that NIWA is building upon.
However, there are some areas that government investments on the inland waterways transport sub-sector may begin to yield fruitful dividends; these include the rehabilitated Onitsha River Port Complex which was commissioned in2012 and has put to use, and about to concession with the appointment of a concession adviser.
Again, there is the Baro River port in Niger State which is almost completed while appreciable progress has been made in respect of Lokoja and Oguta River ports.
In addition, there have been massive constructions of jetties along River Niger in places like Locoja, Oguta lake, Degema, Onitsha, Owerinta, Ndoni, Pategi, Buruitu, Yenagoa, Baro and Igbokoda in Ondo State.
The objective is to promote and enhance the usage of Inland Waterways as an intermodal means of transhipment of economic goods which would have concentrated on road transport.
However, if well harnessed, there is no doubt that with all the government initiatives geared towards increase in efficiency in Inland Waterways operatives, the private sector may equally fall in line for expansion and efficiency.
The drive for achieving all of these informed the maiden edition of the international conference to tap from the wealth of experience of stakeholders who have excelled in their various fields of endeavour as far as inland waterways is concerned.
Among whose political and professional knowledge was sought is the president Goodluck Jonathan enjoined the Authority to take advantage of the Public Private Partnership (PPP) created to accelerate infrastructural development in the country.
The President who was represented at the event by the Minister of Transport, Sen. Idiris Umar said, “We have created appropriate legal and institutional frame work that will allow public private partnership to flourish and accelerate infrastructural development in the country. For instance, we have established the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and we have also approved a policy on public private partnership, we have equally directed all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to establish PPP unit in their various offices”.
According to the President, the Federal Government has invested a whooping N4.465 billion with additional US $ 49.4 billion for the Inland Waterways Sub-sector before 2020, barely six year from now to address the infrastructure deficit.
The Managing Director of NIWA, Hajia Mariam Ciroma in her speech had said the Authority was poised with the challenge of providing necessary infrastructure that will make navigation on our waterways effective and efficient, adding that about 28 of the 36 states of the country can be accessed through water.
She said, “It is for this reason that the Authority thought it wise to bring together various stakeholders in the Inland Waterways sub-sector in a gathering like this for dialogue and exchange ideas as to the sustainability, safety and utilization of our inland waterways including the tourism potentials for the growth and development of our economy.
Ndanusa Umar who represented the Chairman, Board of Director of NIWA said the conference would provide a platform to showcase NIWA’s resolve to create job for investors in the maritime sector and to bridge the gap that exist in the inland waterways.
He therefore called investors to key into the developmental strides of the Federal Government through PPP arrangement in the sub-sector.
For sustainability, he suggested that the conference be made an annual event.
Speaking further, he reiterated the efforts of the Federal Government in Safety saying, that safety is important in maritime operations and that the management of NIWA is set to make the sector environmentally friendly.
The avalanche of speeches at the vent, if properly applied, NIWA is sure to hit the roof top in no distant time.