By Godfrey Bivbere
Minister for Transport, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio has given the management of the Nigerian port authority an ultimatum to come up with a blue print for the development of the nationâ€™s ports or face severe sanctions. The ultimatum was handed down to the NPA management for failing to develop a blueprint for the development of the countryâ€™s ports.
The Ministerâ€™s directiveÂ is coming one year after the ministry had instructed the NPA management to develop a blue print for the development of ports in the country
Bio gave the directive in Abuja while expressing concern that it seems NPA had no development plan. â€œIt appears NPA has not gotten a port developmental plan,â€ he stated.
He said any organisation without a developmental plan will continue to drift and there would be no measure of improvement. Let the NPA have a 25 to 30 year port development plan. NPA has the capacity and the resources to develop Nigeria ports if they plan,â€ he said.
The minister said, â€œunfortunately, no master plan from NPA to carry to the Council for approval.â€
Bio explained that Nigeria controls 70 per cent of maritime trade in Central and West African sub-regions and so much is expected as both an international and regional maritime player.
He expressed concern that both Apapa and Tin-Can Island ports have been choked up, adding that there had been growth in the nationâ€™s cargo throughput but no corresponding growth in expansion of the ports and facilities.
Bio said in the last 20 years, port infrastructure have decayed, no good port access roads, no rail and wondered why these would not create congestion.
The minister said he also wanted to see improvement in maritime security in Nigeria waters, adding that the â€œit is disheartening to see 200 vessels along the Lagos anchorage doing illegal bunkering and transfer.â€™â€™
He said some of the vessels lying on Marine waters in Lagos were very old while some had been abandoned and had become wrecks. â€œIf we must improve our maritime security, those abandoned vessels should be clearedâ€™â€™, he said, stating that there should also be statistics of vessels in the nationâ€™s waters and what they are doing there.
The minister recalled that he had constituted a presidential committee for the removal of wrecks, adding that by the time he is leaving office, all the wrecks would have been removed. To properly police the nationâ€™s waters, he said there should be adequate patrol as well as search and rescue boats.
Bio also spoke on the on-going dredging of the River Niger and said it was needed to create riverine port development, establishment of dockyards, warehouses, tank farms along the channels and movement of vessels, boats and barges to carry both passengers and goods.
He said that contract for the reconstruction of the Onitsha port had been awarded with nine-month duration, saying that apart from Onitsha port, contracts for the reconstruction of Baro and Oguta ports have been also awarded.
The minister said the Lokoja port project was 13 per cent completed but had been abandoned by the contractor, whom he alleged diverted the funds allocated for the project to something else. Thus, the contract was revoked by the ministry..
Bio said the dredging of the Calabar channel was badly conceived saying it was why the channel was not appropriately dredged. On this, he said NPA had been directed to get another consultant to do a proper survey of the channel with a time line of March 2010.
The minister spoke on the $40-million Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) which he said government desired to disburse but must adopt transparent modalities in the disbursements.