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After protest, NIWA clears blocked waterways 

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Abiola Seun

After a recent protest by traders and women of Pessu market in Warri South Local Government, Delta State, the Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority, Dr George Moghalu, has ordered immediate deployment of technical experts and equipment to the blocked area of the Pessu market river.

This is to clearing the blockade for boat commuters and linking up the waterways to the main Nigeria Port Authority outlet.

The protesting traders and women of Pessu market, led by a prominent Itsekiri traditional title holder, Chief Ritalori Ogbebor, had laid siege on the NIWA Warri office to highlight their challenges in taking their goods across other parts of the riverine communities due to the blockage of the channel.

In what looked like a reaction to the protest on Friday, the NIWA Managing Director led a team of the top management staff of the Authority to the affected blocked waterways on an ‘on-the-spot-assessment’ and fact-finding visit.

Moghalu, while expressing concern over the low water level witnessed at the location at this period of high tides, wondered how difficult the situation would be for those plying their trade in the area during low tides.

After taking time to inspect the remote cause of the blockage, the NIWA boss admitted that “the situation requires an urgent intervention, in order not to endanger lives of residents who are mostly waterway users, especially the women who are fishermen and petty traders.”

Consequently, he directed officials of the Authority to immediately mobilise the needed manpower and equipment to the place to commence the process of survey towards opening up the blocked side of the river and thereafter dredge the area as a way of averting a possible situation that could lead to loss of lives if proper measures were not being taken early enough.

Moghalu said, “It is a total blockage we are looking at here. And if you can have this volume of water during the high tides, imagine what the situation would be during the low tides.

“So I am a little bit worried about it and I have directed now that a survey team should move in to start work immediately to get the hydrographic survey done completely from the beginning down to the major outlets.

“It is after this stage that we will begin to look at the programme of dislodging the entire place and dredging it out. We want to clear it, otherwise, we’ll lose the body of water here and that’s not in our best interest.

“Due to the urgency we are attaching to solving this problem, I will be issuing a formal letter by Monday (yesterday) so that the work can commence in earnest and we hope to complete it in good time too.”

One of the market traders, Mrs. Beatrice Omadeli, who claimed to be a fish trader in the market for over 25 years, expressed joy over the directive by the NIWA Managing Director on the move to clear the blocked waterway.

She noted that the blockage had made doing business in the area more demanding and expensive as they had to pay extra charges on transportation to get to where they would buy and sell their goods.

The blockade has made life so unbearable for us doing business in this community because we are presently being made to bear the cost, especially on transporting our goods to sell and to buy as well.
” That is why we are appreciating NIWA for the initiative to address the issue. We want them to start as quickly as possible so that they can finish up early.
“These river waterways mean so much to us in this community and once it starts functioning again, it eases our burden and brings relief to us.”

Moghalu had earlier inspected the Warri office of NIWA to ascertain the challenges the staff was facing in the course of discharging their duties just as he took instant decisions on how to address some of the pressing demands as presented by the Warri Area Manager, Engineer Rufus Oladimeji.

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