*Hints of plan to open Lake Chad waterways
*Partners South African firm on waterway security
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has disclosed that about 65 per cent of cargo berthing in Nigeria through the Lagos ports are meant for the South-east, especially Onitsha and Aba in Anambra and Abia States respectively.Its Managing Director, Dr. George Moghalu, who made this known at a news briefing at the State House, Abuja, said most of the consignments that berth in Lagos waters were actually meant for the south-east zone.
His words: “A good number of the consignments come through the Lagos axis. And how is it going to ease the congestion? 60 to 65 per cent of the cargo that comes into this country ends up in the southeast, either Onitsha or Aba.”
Moghalu, who was providing update on the agency’s activities, noted that the current road network infrastructure could not withstand the sheer volume of traffic required to move cargo from the south-east to other parts of the country.He said this necessitated recent efforts by the agency 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 reduced, adding that survey and talks were underway with Nigerian Navy to open up Lake Chad as an inland water gateway to other African countries.
He added that an alternative such as water transportation would scale down the weight of industrial trucks on the roads and generate government revenue. Moghalu said: “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.“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.He also expressed concern over the menace of floating debris in vital waterways saying NIWA spends a fortune annually to rid the waterways of nonbiodegradable wastes such as plastic and rubber.
“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 was working with state governments and the media to enlighten the public about proper waste disposal.The NIWA boss also revealed that the federal government was 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 would enable NIWA monitor the movement of vessels anywhere in the waterways.He noted that the South African tech firm, had visited NIWA, giving them a better feel of the FG’s security challenges on the waterways.The company, he said, affirmed its 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,” Moghalu said.
Asked specifically about the challenges facing the agency under his leadership, the MD said contrary to expectations, funding was not his primary concern but the low morale among his members of staff.
According to him, he met an agency which activities were under-reported with many unaware of its core statutory responsibilities.
He however said he was able to overcome the low morale of the staff with their training and re-training and by creating awareness on the mandate of the agency.