Concessioning plan stalls operations at Onitsha port
MORE than two years and seven months after its was commissioned by President Goodluck Jonathan, the N4.6 billion Onitsha River Port complex is yet to commence operations, largely due to the concessioning scheme scripted for the facility.
The port complex, which has not really functioned since it was first commissioned by President Shehu Shagari in 1983, was rehabilitated by the present administration through National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), as part of measures to boost business activities in the South East.
Commissioning the port complex in August 2012, Jonathan said: “The river or marine transport must be enhanced and to do it, we need inland port like the one in Onitsha. Our target is to link all the ports by road and rail so that doing business in Nigeria becomes easy. The river port must be linked up to other areas of resources. Today, the process is being started and others on the drawing board must be completed”.
Senior officials in the Federal Ministry of Transport, who spoke with The Guardian yesterday, blamed the delay on an ongoing concessioning scheme being put in place by the Federal Government.
NIWA’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Tayo Fadile, in a chat with The Guardian yesterday, disclosed that the concessioning programme is expected to commence in June.
Another source, who preferred to remain anonymous, said: “To drive activities at the port, the Federal Government is involving the private sector. There are challenges. But, with the involvement of the private sector, things may move a lot faster. The market is there. We need to put things in proper perspective so that we don’t make mistakes of the past”.
He also pledged the commitment of the Federal Government to complete all river ports projects and ensure they are viable in the interest of all Nigerians and the larger economy.
Already, an Indian firm has been commissioned as Transaction Adviser for the concessioning of Onitsha and other river Ports.
Speaking at a conference on the economic use of the Onitsha River Port, stakeholders urged the Federal Government to come up with legal and administrative framework that will help bring to light the enabling environment that will encourage businesses to thrive at the Onitsha River Port.
The conference also commended the Federal Government for the huge investment expended on the dredging of the Lower River Niger.
A communiqué issued at the end of their deliberation urged the Federal Government to hasten the setting-up of the administrative delivery team with members drawn from various related organisations for the quick take-off of operations at the river port.
Participants noted the importance of synergy between the federal government and the Private Sector under a Public Private Partnership (PPP) and encourage re-doubling of efforts at concessioning of the River Port.
It emphasised the need for constant upgrading of Maritime and Port infrastructure to enable the investors take optimal advantage of Anambra State’s expansive coastline in areas of shipbuilding, Dockyard Operations, Metal fabrication, dock labour, warehousing and recycling plants, among others.
Participants also noted the importance of moving goods and services through the inland waterways which according to them will help to decongest traffic on road and give added benefits in terms of cost and safety.