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BPE seeks Presidency’s intervention over Calabar Port dredging

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Vincent Onome Akpotaire

The Bureau of Public Enterprises (BPE), has called for the immediate intervention of the Federal Government over the dredging of the Calabar Channel, which had lingered for too long.

The call became imperative, as the non-dredging of the Channel has impeded port’s operations, particularly with the movement of vessels over the last 10 years.The Acting Director-General, BPE, Dr. Vincent Onome Akpotaire, made the call during the Post Privatisation Monitoring of Terminal Operators at the port last week.

Akpotaire, who was represented by the Director, Post Privatisation Monitoring in the BPE, Joseph ChigboAnichebe, said the Bureau would immediately come up with a report on its assessment of the Port and present to the Federal Government for quick intervention for the dredging which was abruptly halted some time ago.

Noting that the Bureau was not a party to the contract for the dredging of the Calabar Channel, he said the “BPE will step in to ensure that the Federal Government dredges the Port because it is an agreement signed with the terminal operators during the concessioning of the terminals.”

The BPE boss during the two-day monitoring at the Port noted the complaints by Terminal Operators that the non-dredging of the Channel had led to a lull in their operations. The development, in turn, also led to a huge loss of revenue to the Federal Government, a situation, he said ought to be addressed urgently to shore up Government’s dwindling revenue.

According to him, “Calabar Port is not what we were expecting. We expected to see here what is happening in Lagos and Port Harcourt ports where activities are booming, but unfortunately, the Calabar Port has gone back to pre-2006 levels. We have interacted with the Port operators, who have told us why the Port is not performing as expected, and have given the Bureau an avalanche of reasons why the Port is not performing. And the major challenge they say is the non-dredging of the Calabar Channel.

“No ocean going vessel can come into the Channel. We were expecting the draught to be deepened but as it is now, no big or container laden vessels can come into the Port. When we go back after the interaction with the Terminal Operators, we will do a report to the BPE management, and the National Council on Privatisation (NCP), chaired by the Vice-President, highlighting the problems we saw on ground. And it is our belief that very soon things will change based on our recommendations.”

Akpotaire also noted that, “You can’t ask a ship to come to Calabar Port and dock because the depth is so low. And that is the critical thing we expect the Federal Government to do. As soon as the Channel is dredged, Nigeria can apart from imports, also export as there are many things to export but if the ships can’t come in you can’t export. You can’t take smaller ships to export goods to Europe,” he said.

He maintained that the Calabar Port is very central to the North-East, North-Central, South-East, and South-South regions of the country, and capable of controlling the economies of these regions.

“Nnewi for instance imports heavy duty equipment. In Onitsha, they import all kinds of goods. Aba exports and imports a lot of products, so Calabar Port should be the hub, but currently it is not. People will transport their goods to Lagos to export while others would import through Lagos Port and haul them by trucks and the roads are not good. So why not use the Calabar Port to ease their sufferings.”

The Calabar Port was concessioned to Intels, Ecomarine and Shoreline Logistics in 2006. Under the concession agreement, the Federal Government was contractually obligated to dredge the Calabar Channel, but it never did until in 2013, when the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) appointed a Channel Manager- Calabar Channel Management (CCM). CCM mobilised and started dredging in 2014, but suddenly stopped.



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