Government to begin dredging of River Benue in 2019
The Federal Government has commenced arrangements to dredge the River Benue with expectations that the project would mature for implementation come 2019.
Acting Managing Director, National Inland Waterways (NIWA), Danladi Ibrahim, who disclosed this in a chart with newsmen in Lagos, said although the agency is yet to come up with the financial implication, the government has drawn a master plan to commence the dredging next year.
He said the dredging of River Benue would complement the River Niger channel and boost commercial activities around the river ports, which are expected to take off by the end of 2018,
Ibrahim said: “Because River Benue has not been dredged, the burden is now on River Niger, therefore, we also have a master plan to dredge River Benue by next year.
On the financial implications, he said: “In fact, we are starting afresh because it was long time that the dredging of River Benue has been awarded, definitely that cannot stand the present day reality, so in 2019, we are starting a fresh procurement process,”
He said the planned concessioning of four river ports across the country is still on course, although it had been delayed due to bureaucracy. “In any case the concessioning has been completed. We opened the financial bid on the 3rd of July and we have picked the most competitive concessionaire, and any moment from now, the concessionaire will take over Onitsha Port.”
On Baro Port, he said the project is completed. “We have supplied the cargo handling equipment, right now as I speak to you, the cargo handling facility is being installed by German experts. Before the end of the year, I am pretty sure the president will commission Baro Port.”
He noted that the access road, which has been a challenge has been provided for in the 2018 budget and the Ministry of Works is planning to link it with Lokoja-Abuja Expressway.
Lokoja Port, according to him, is currently at 75 per cent completion, with expectation that by the end of the year it might also be commissioned by Mr President.
Ibrahim added that plans are at advanced stage with some international companies that will partner with NIWA to have a perfect maintenance of the channels from that cut across Warri, Onitsha, Lokoja to Baro.
Also unveiled plans for a master plan on in-house transshipment, and they are acquiring vessels to move bulk cargoe from Lagos to Onitsha Port and Baro Port when completed.
He however warned commercial boat/ferry operators desist from flouting the rules, nothing that any one that found guilty of flouting the Transportation Code would be severely dealt with.
He said it is against the Code to sail on the waterways at night as NIWA regulations only permit water transportation from 6am to 6pm daily.
He explained that the time limitation is important for safety as the agency is currently installing buoys (with light) from Baro to Lokoja and it would soon extend to Lagos.
“So, what we have done is that those areas that does not have buoys are prohibited to move at night.” He said.
The NIWA boss also unveiled the plans for an ultra-modern terminal in Marina, Lagos. He said the agency is already working on an agreement with a firm that will be moving people and cargo between Tema (Ghana) and Lagos, Nigeria.
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