The Managing Director of the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), George Muoghalu has said that the waterways can generate millions of jobs and open up communities across the country.
To achieve the objective; he said his plan was to engage critical stakeholders on how best to develop water transportation in the country.
He added that the strategy would reduce pressure on the country’s roads and address the perennial traffic gridlock around the nation’s number one seaport of Apapa.
He noted that the reason why the agency is not popular among Nigerians is failure to give necessary publicity to the activities of the authority.
“My plan for the agency was to engage critical stakeholders and brainstorm on how to make good use of the waterways and develop the water transport sub-sector more effectively to take pressure from the roads.
“Peculiar cases, such as the Apapa gridlock, could be addressed easily, if the waterways were developed and opened up.
“Goods arriving the ports would be easily transported to various parts of the country when the waterways are well developed. Special appreciation to the President for the confidence he reposed in me to head the agency.
“With a firm commitment, I assure the President that I will not let him down and I will not let Nigerians down. I am determined to leave a mark by the time I would have finished my term in NIWA.
“NIWA is more of a regulatory agency in charge of the waterways in the country. I believe that if we explore the waterways of Nigeria, they have great potentials in the area of water transport.
“The simplest I can say now is that it will reduce the burden on Nigerian roads. If our waterways are opened, the channels are free and secured, you can open the scope of passenger traffic. It is economical and it goes round the country.
“A good percentage of the goods that arrive the port in Lagos goes to the Southeast and are transported by road. It puts great pressure on the roads. But if we have a clear waterway transport system, all these goods can be received in Lagos and moved to the inland ports.
“We have a completed river port today in Onitsha and a jetty being built in Oguta. We also have a completed port in Baro. Some of the goods going to the North can be moved by the waterways to Baro and to other areas where we have functional jetties and ports.
“It will open up the waterways, and if these waterways are opened, you see that communities and other settlements along those routes will start being developed. It reduces, tremendously, the pressure you have on the roads, if the agency engages a major critical stakeholder, like Dangote, for example.
“It will come to a point when cement and other heavy goods are moved by rivers and they still get to where they are meant to go to. When we do that, we would have succeeded in reducing the pressure on Nigerian roads. We can develop it to a point where passenger fleet can still be enhanced.
“The beautiful thing is that it provides opportunity for massive employment. It is capital-intensive and we have to make a huge capital investment to make it very functional. It is one area that, if we make it functional, it will help in reopening our economy.
“It is my intention to create an opportunity to engage critical stakeholders so that we all can discuss these issues and come to a point of understanding and see the potentials lying fallow that we can explore for the benefit of our nation.
“As an agency, we have challenges. It is not as easy as we are saying it. Sometimes, you talk about desilting of the channels, you talk about the security challenges of these waterways. But these are issues that are surmountable and issues that can be addressed.
“With collaboration with sister-agencies of government, I am sure these issues can be addressed and water transport will then become the favourite of Nigerians. I think that will help our economy .”
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