By Dirisu Yakubu
ABUJA — The federal government, yesterday, handed over the Onitsha River Port to the concessionaire, Universal Elysium Consortium at a brief ceremony in Abuja.
Recall that concessioning agreement between the federal government and Universal Elysium Consortium was signed last month with the then Minister of State (Transportation), Sen. Gbemisoloa Saraki and Managing Director, Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, George Moghalu in attendance.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony, Moghalu said the process complied with global best practice even as he expressed confidence that other ports across the country would follow suit.
He said: “We have gained a lot of experience but as to whether we have confidence in the process, we have. As to whether expectation is high, expectation is high and we are going to be guided and when you are doing this type of thing, you must do it properly in line with international best practice.
“The major emphasis is to be able to move consignments from Apapa and Tincan to Onitsha and other inland ports because as we are talking about this, we are also starting the process of concessioning of the Baro, Lokoja River Port and Oguta Port which have been completed. But just like the roads, we have security challenges. We are going to be addressing the challenges as they come but we are not scared about it because it is not insurmountable.”
Addressing newsmen at the event, Managing Director, Universal Elysium Consortium, George Nwangwu said the cooperation of the people of the area is key to the management of the waterways.
“We are managing the port in Onitsha because we need to partner with the places that have deeper drafts like Lagos, Warri, Onne, and Port Harcourt. Those are the locations where we can barge containers for our goods. We will be operating from Onitsha but the barges will be coming from all of those places. We are certainly sure that we will be successful, and when you get a national asset concession, it is a lot of responsibility, because you are holding it in trust for the rest of the country.
It’s not as if you bought it, it is just giving it to you for sometime and you give it back to the country. It comes with a lot of responsibility and we are conscious of that responsibility to Nigerians. We are committed to Nigeria because it is all we have. Though the environment is a bit difficult to do business, this is where we have and some of us can’t keep complaining. We need to roll up our sleeves and do what we need to do for our country,” he said.