By Godwin Oritse
CONTRARY to speculations that the Onitsha River port has been abandoned , Special Assistant to the Minister of Transport on Media, Mr. Innocent Ebirim has said that the port is being repositioned for efficiency and better service delivery.
Speaking to Vanguard in Lagos, Ebirim stated that the expectation is to put the port into proper use with a view to enhancing inland water transportation.
Besides, the government through the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and the World Bank has concluded plans to commence the concessioning process of the Onitsha River port, Ebirim said
He explained that the government is putting some measures in place such that both the public and private operators will be better for it at the end of the entire exercise .
He said“The Onitsha River port Complex which was commissioned by Mr. President on the August 30th has not been abandoned.
|”The expectation of the Federal Government is to put that port into proper commercial use to enhance inland water transportation and that expectation has not been abandoned.
“What is happening now is to put arrangement in place that will be convenient for both the government and the business community in the South East.
What is happening now is a concessioning arrangement to a private entrepreneur that will successfully manage the Onitsha River port.
There are two organisations that are currently managing this concessioning arrangement, the Infrastructure Concession and Regulatory Commission (ICRC) and the World Bank.
“ICRC is a Federal Government agency charged with the responsibility of handling every private – public partnership arrangement in this country and the World Bank is there to provide gap funding and the process is on going and it takes about two years to start and complete the concessioning exercise.
“These two organisations are on top of the situation, so nobody has abandoned Onitsha River port”.
Ebirim who spoke to Vanguard at the 16th edition of the Maritime Industry Award bestowed on the Minister of Transport as Maritime Man of the Year 2012, said that \all over the world, it is the private sector that drives development of the economy while government provides the enabling environment by putting in place right policies and structures .
He further explained that the concessioning of Onitsha river port would have been concluded long before now only that it became necessary to integrate the Baro, Lokoja, and Oguta Rivers ports to the Onitsha River port.
“As soon as these River ports are concluded, the concession will take place.The government want to make a holistic plan to integrate all the river ports to ease the movement of people and goods within the country through the water ways.