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Waterways Transport Will Decongest, Preserve Our Roads – George Moghalu

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George Moghalu

The Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of the National Inland Waterways Authority, Chief George Moghalu recently engaged some newsmen and revealed the activities of the Authority so far and his desire to make the waterways as a means of carrying cargoes all over the country. 

What is the update about the dredging of the Niger and other water channels?

We share your concerns about the issue of dredging. If you recall in 2012/2013 there was Capital Dredging in Nigeria and this is one business that is quite capital intensive but it took less.

What we are doing more now as an organization is focusing our attention on maintenance dredging. We have undertaken some procurement process. We now own dredgers ourselves, so we can deploy our staffs who are experienced and then carry out our regular maintenance dredging because, one thing about movement of silt, you cannot determine the volume or capacity.

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It’s a continuous thing, that’s why we consider maintenance as the best option. But the major thing to be done is regular training, we acknowledge that fact. In fact there was a meeting we recently attended where we are looking at dealing with the issue of flooding and the issue of dredging came up.

Dredging has been done not too long ago by Capital Dredging 2012/2013 but now there is need for it. We acknowledge that fact, as an agency. We are laying emphasis on maintenance dredging; we can work within the limit of resources available to us.

What are you doing about security of waterways?

The concern here is first the issue with security. We have general security concerns; it’s not only limited to the water ways. The beautiful thing about this is that the governments are very much concerned about the situation and every effort are being made to address this challenge.

If you would recall last year there was an international conference on security that about 79 countries were represented here in Nigeria. Because we are looking at a situation where there would be an egotistic approach to the issue of security.

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Let me also commend the security agencies for what they are doing so far within and between the sister maritime agencies. We are all collaborating and everybody is quite supportive (the Army, Police the Navy etc.) because apart from the negative image, it gives us internationally; it experiences?

I think the question should be best answered by the staff of NIWA, because they would tell you that all things being equal, we have done very well, we are not lagging behind, we do not owe any staff. There is nothing concerning the welfare of staff that we are taking for granted.

Those who are retiring are getting all the benefits, those who are in office are getting all their benefits, their medical is been taking care of all the welfare, including the palliatives during COVID-19 was given to them because we believe when our staff are happy their productivity is always high. So, we made emphasis on it, we must not have any reason why any of our staff would complain.

That is why I say it’s better you ask the staff yourself how they are faring, do they have any challenge? But for us at the management we have done our best. We are making sure we are not lacking behind in any of our obligation to our staff.

How NIWA is leveraging on private sector participation and involvement?

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Yes, we are doing that, we are exploring all the opportunities like the documentary you watched, you heard when I was talking about investment by some private sector players. I talked about the two jetties in Lagos that is being deployed by private sector.

And the test-run project in Onitsha was done because of the involvement of a private sector player. The barges used were not our barges, they belong to a private sector player who believes, agrees and sees from our perspective that business can be open and that   it is valuable brings economic growth and people can benefit from it.

So we both agree to take the challenge by taking the bull by the horn. We tried it and it worked. So, we are involving the private sector. We are engaging more. There is an American firm that is interested in supporting us. There is an American firm that we signed MOU with, they are supplying life jackets to NIWA staff. So that people can have modern life jackets.

We will like to know what NIWA is doing about Baro Port that was recently commissioned by the President?

Baro Port is a world class port, fully completed and commissioned by the President. The first facility of NIWA I visited after my appointment was the Baro Port and I went by water from Lokoja to Baro Port, spent some time there and still came back to Lokoja same day.

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The biggest challenge there today is access road to Baro Port but I am happy to say the Federal Government project with regards to providing road to Baro is ongoing. I have also engaged the Niger State government; they have also demonstrated their commitments, determination, and desire to have a road leading to Baro Port.

So very soon I am confident with all the efforts being made and the synergy we are building, the issue of Baro Port would be an issue of the past. That is the major challenge and I am not aware of any other challenge we have in Baro.

What should the people expect in the future?

Like I said in the documentary, I have a vision and that vision that I gave to myself is that I want by the time I leave office that water transportation would become a choice means of transportation of both cargo and personnel. That’s my determination, my wish and that is where I have put my eyes on and that is what I’m working towards, because by the time we open up all our waterways.

Then you would appreciate the enormity of what God has done for us. We have over 10,000km of waterways in this country and you can access 28 states of Nigeria out 36 by water. It’s only unfortunate that it is slightly over 3000km that is available all year round.

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So, by the time I leave office, we can make it possible for people to access most of the state by water. So, we can move bulk cargo as it’s done overseas. There is a massive tourism potential which can generate resources apart from the employment direct and indirect that comes with it. So, there is quite a lot we can gain.

So, I have a vision, I want a situation whereby people can take their boat and travel rather than go on road. I want a situation where bulk cargo can be moved by water. And that is what we are determined to achieve.

That is why I place this as a matter that by the time I leave office; I want water transportation to become a choice means of transportation.

This Onitsha Port, some people say there is progress some are saying there is none. What is your view?

I acknowledge that the port started 42 years ago, commissioned in 2012 and has not been active. But when I came in, I said it cannot be the same; that we need to put the port to active use. So, we set up a management committee in the house to address the issues. An important point came up and I said why can’t we put this into practice?

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Why not do a practical experiment? I approach a barge owner shared my visions with him and he accepted and said it can be done. I asked that the barges be moved from Onne to Onitsha.

So, we can load containers and return them to Onne, barring challenges from all sources, because a lot of people believed that it’s not doable. I felt that if it’s not doable, why do we have the guts? So, the barges were released to sail.

They were loaded in Onitsha; I came on Sunday to flag off the test run. We went to Onne and before we knew it the containers were entering Onne. Now nobody can tell me it’s impossible to move barge in Onitsha and within.

In a couple of days, we would move containers from Lagos to Onitsha because when we do it; we will have broken the challenges. Whatever challenge we encounter we will resolve it at that point and we will inspire private sector players to do same.

They cannot put their barges without seeing us do it. For instance, last Sunday two companies came to talk to me, they want to enter into an agreement with NIWA so that they can put in their own barges and move items. To them it was not doable, but we broke the edge. By the time we break the limit from Lagos to Onitsha many people would be ready to partner with us. It’s neither rocket science nor magic.

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This is exactly what happens. Some people say it’s not possible, and is asked which is not possible? Is the barge coming to Onitsha not possible? Can’t you load containers on barge? Or can’t barges move to Onitsha? We have demonstrated all this and found out that it is possible. Yes, you can say we have not shipped from Onitsha to Lagos, but we are going to come from Lagos very soon.

That is a target I have set for myself. Just like I set the Onitsha Port, I wanted to do it by the grace of God. By the time we open our water ways, we are going to save the life span of the roads. We are going to decongest the Lagos Port, because a good percentage, if not 50 per cent of goods that come from Lagos ends in the South-East.

In practical terms if 2000 containers are coming from Lagos means that 2000 trailers would be on the road. But we can use the barges to move containers from Lagos to Onitsha, and trailers would be out of the roads and then we will save our roads.

The roads are not designed to carry such weight that we are placing on them – how do you expect the road to survive? These are just practical realities.

What synergy exists among your agency and other government departments?

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Let me use this medium to let us know that there is a synergy between all the agencies in the maritime sector under the Ministry of Transportation. We have what we need. Chief executive of NPA, NIMASA, NIWA, MAN, Shippers council, Maritime Academy, all meet regularly; we have synergy.

If any challenge comes up, we would address it there. In our last meeting in Lokoja, Nigeria Railway Corporation was also part of it because it’s part of the transport sector.

We know the role we play in moving cargo from point A to point B apart from passengers’ capacity. So, there is a synergy and we relate together, harmonizing our activities with a view of growing the economy, which is the bottom line.

What about Gelegele Port in Edo State?

I must be honest with you I have not approached the Edo State government effectively on this project. But this is one project I would engage the government on very soon. I am going to visit Edo State and look at it properly and talk with the government and see what can be done.

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As far as we are concerned anything that would help in developing our inland water ways, anything that would strengthen our desire to build the transport sector, you can count on us, and you can count on our commitment and dedication to see we actualize that.

So, once I have setup a meeting and see how we can manage that, I would call for a press meeting.

 

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