By Ifeyinwa Obi
PRESIDENT Goodluck Jonathan, Tuesday, said his administration has approved N25 billion for the dredging of River Benue.
He disclosed this at the maiden edition of the International Conference and Exhibition, ICE, organised by the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA. The theme of the conference and exhibition was ‘Modernising inland water infrastructure and vessels for safe and sustainable inland waterways transportation in Nigeria.”
The president who was represented by the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, said the dredging of the river has been scheduled to commence in a few weeks.
He said, “In order to further consolidate the transformation of the inland waterways sub-sector, the Federal Government has approved the dredging of River Benue while the process for the award of the contract for the construction of Makurdi River port is in progress. To stimulate economic growth through our inland waterways, my administration has put in place necessary machinery to dredge River Benue.
“Government has no doubt that the vision which informed huge investment made on the inland waterways sub-sector will encourage private sector participation which will lead to a rewarding return on investment. River ports located at Baro in Niger State, Oguta in Imo State and Lokoja in Kogi State are also being constructed with several jetties across the country. All the River ports will be concessioned to private sector upon completion.”
President Jonathan also disclosed that his administration has procured patrol boats to provide security within the inland waterways. He said government was vigorously pursuing the delivery of intra-coastal system to reduce pressure on the nation’s road transport network.
Speaking earlier, the Managing Director of NIWA, Hajia Maryam Ciroma, said the conference was meant to gather stakeholders and intellectuals in the inland waterways sub-sector across the world to brainstorm and provide roadmap for repositioning and improving activities on Nigeria inland waterways.
She stated further that the objective of the conference was to ensure maximum utilization of the dredged River Niger, adding, “For maximum utilization of the dredged River Niger, 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 of ideas as to the sustainability, safety and utilization of our inland waterways including the tourism potentials for the growth and development of our economy.
“For the dredged River Niger to be put into effective use, the Federal Government approved the rehabilitation of the abandoned Onitsha River Port which is being put up for concessioning by Messrs Green Stratos of India under the supervision of ICRC.”