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–Says everything in place for the movement of cargo in Onitsha Port

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, ABUJA

The National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, on Thursday, said over 65 per cent of cargo coming into Nigeria through the Lagos port ends up in Onitsha and Aba in the Southeast.

Managing Director of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu, disclosed this when he featured at the 52nd Session of the State House Briefing organised by the Presidential Communications Team, at the State House, Abuja.

He also said that everything is in place for the movement of Cargo in Onitsha River Port even though he explained that it is the owner of the cargo that will determine the movement.

Moghalu, who was providing updates on the agency’s activities, however noted that the current road network infrastructure cannot withstand the sheer volume of traffic required to move cargo from the southeast to other parts of the country.

This, he said, necessitated recent efforts by NIWA to provide water inroads to the northern part of the country.

He said that water transportation would help to reduce the weight of the heavy duty traffic on the roads and also generate revenue for the country.

He said this necessitated recent efforts by NIWA to provide water inroads to the northern part of the country, including plans to open up Lake Chad.

According to him, the security challenges in the Lake Chad region have lessened. Therefore, NIWA will collaborate with the Nigerian Navy to reopen the route to connect Nigeria to other African countries.

The MD added that an alternative such as water transportation would scale down the weight of industrial trucks on the roads and generate government revenue.

“On the commencement of cargo movement to Onitsha, everything is in place! But this point must be made clear that the person who determines the movement of cargo is the owner of the cargo. And we have been engaging both the Chamber of Commerce and the Importers Association because unless they have their buy-in, they can’t move their cargo by water. So the moment we get their total buy-in, I’m sure they will start moving their cargo.

“We are now encouraged to face the Lagos axis because a good number of the consignments come through the Lagos axis. And how is it going to ease the congestion? As I said, 60 to 65 per cent of the cargo that comes into this country ends up in the southeast, either Onitsha or Aba.

“If we can make that route viable, we will reduce the pressure from our roads and save our road infrastructure because they’re not designed to carry the weight they are carrying. By the time you remove that volume of cargo from the Lagos port, the port will be congested,” he argued.

Moghalu also lamented the menace of floating debris in vital waterways. He said the authority spends a fortune annually to rid the waterways of nonbiodegradable wastes such as plastic and rubber. He was silent on the specific amount NIWA had spent clearing the waterways.

“We need to get our people to understand how to manage our waste. It is a problem. Because, year in and year out, NIWA spends money moving out floating debris on our waterways. Most of these floating debris are rubber and bottled water, we keep throwing them, and they all end in the waterway.

“Every year, at least since I came, and from the records, it has been there. Every year, you must remove high water centres and floating debris,” the MD said.

He added that NIWA is working with state governments and the media to enlighten the public about proper waste disposal.

Moghalu also revealed that a survey and talks are underway to open up Lake Chad as an inland water gateway to other African countries.

He further revealed that the FG is finalising an agreement to secure a South Africa-sourced technology for monitoring and securing the nation’s Inland waterways.

According to Moghalu, the new piece of technology will enable NIWA to monitor the movement of vessels anywhere in the waterways.

He noted that the South African tech firm, whose details he was reluctant to reveal, had visited NIWA, giving them a better feel of the FG’s security challenges on the waterways.

The company, he said, affirmed their willingness and ability to help as they have solved a similar challenge in South Africa.

“We visited them and they visited us and we now presented our challenge because we want to be in a position to monitor all our waterways and they have the technology.

“There is a technology they are going to deploy so that I will be in the control room in Lokoja and be able to monitor all the vessels that operate in our waterways,” he said.

He was however silent on the specific amount NIWA has spent in clearing the waterways.

He also said that work has commenced at the Oguta River Port which he said was abandoned for 13 years, adding that perimeter fence has been erected at the place and the port now segmented.

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