By Urowayino Jeremiah
DESPITE the controversy surrounding the award of the dredging contract of the Escravos channel, dredging has no way affected the project as host communities have given support to the ongoing dredging exercise due to the expected rippling economic benefits the project will to the Delta ports. In this interview with the Vanguard Maritime Report, the Chairman of the Delta State Seaports’ Stakeholders Association, Mr. Emiko Oghomienor, said that stakeholders are very keen on ensuring that the project is completed within the stipulated time.
Is the controversy surrounding the award of the dredging contract affecting the pace of the work?
Not at all, because we the host communities and indigenes residing in that area, are really in support of the Nigeria Port Authority and the management of dredging international to make sure the job is being completed because the dredging of channel is more paramount to us
Have your association intervened in any way in the looming dredging contract crisis?
Yes we have intervened, because we responded to some allegations made against NPA in regard to the award of contract, we have also made the general public to understand that we are aware of some of these information and we believe that the management of NPA led by Mrs Hadiza Bala is on the right track.
Are you aware that there is a group protesting that the award of contract is associated fraud?
Yes we are aware, but we see those elements as enemies of progress that are being used to ensure that there is no development in our region and they understand that as soon as this channel is dredged, development and job opportunities will come to our environment, so they want to do everything possible to make sure the project is not completed
What is your assessment of the dredging work done so far?
As far as we are concerned the company from our findings are doing their possible best and the host communities are giving them their support to make sure that the job is completed by providing a conducive environment for them to carry out the job, I think they are meeting their target.
Is your association giving any support in this regard?
Our association is interacting with the host communities and some of the indigenes around to make them understand that this project is not all about what will be benefited now but the benefit in the future. We also are interfacing with the communities to make sure that everything the company needs to make the project a success is provided.
Is your association Liaising in any way with the contractors handling the dredging?
Yes, we interface with the project manager and the representative on the ground which is Mr. blankson and the rest, in case they have any challenge we would resolve it and as far as we are concerned, we have not gotten any challenge and we are working in accordance to make sure the contract is completed.
What are the plans on the ground in anticipation of the completion of the dredging?
The plans on the ground are much, however we are soliciting with the Delta State Government to take the Delta waterway security serious because it is another local way of securing the waterways though we know we have the navy, but Delta the waterway security is made up of our local indigenes from the Ijaws,Itsekiris and Urhobos who are more conversant with the terrain because as soon as it is dredging is completed we don’t want to experience kidnapping and any form of illegality that will bring detriment to the port. We will put measures in place to ensure that communities workers in the port comport themselves to make sure that properties are not being damaged or stolen.
How do you hope to incorporate locals when the ports start functioning?
The association will not go beyond a particular boundary because we have community representatives and we would interact with them at the appropriate time to make them understand that since the port has been dredged, they have to comport themselves and we will continue to appeal to our youths to engage in skillful program to enable them fit into the job opportunities in anticipation of the completion of the dredging work. Because that is where we have some challenges. As soon as this port is dredged a lot of business activities will kick start around the port like in Apapa, so the community representatives would handle employment opportunities.
How is your association going about enlightening the public that Warri is safe and ready for business?
One of the main reason why importers choose Lagos or other ports in the country is because of safety, Warri is very safe now with the strategy the state government has put together, we are assuring importers that as soon their cargos comes to Warri it will be safe as before there is no reason for them to worry about their goods.
With the establishment of the Delta waterways security committee which includes indigenes of the host communities by the Delta state government, the waterways have been more secure than ever before. When the dredging is completed we will call a stakeholder meeting with the management of the port to design a Campaign program with the intention of reaching out to importers and exporters that the port is fully ready for business.
What is the relationship between your association and the management of NPA?
Our relationship is very cordial, the management team led by Hadiza Bala Usman has been relating to the association as a way of contact to be aware of what is happening in our region. We now have a sense of belonging, the management has been relating with the association to ensure that the host communities are carried along. We want to appreciate the management of NPA for their cooperation.
What is the relationship of your association with the major companies operating in the port presently?
Our relationship with the major companies operating in the port is cordial, we want to commend the management of Julius Berger and Intel who have been doing their best to market Warri port to importers. We also want to commend the management of mix and bakes who has been facing challenges for the past 3years with the major issue of the vessel navigating into the port.
We are also disposed to work with other companies who are planning to come into the port to operate since the dredging will address the change of navigating into the port.