FG to rejig inland trade as Navy, transport ministry unveils navigational charts
After 14 months of toiling by officers and Ratings in the rough rivers and estuaries, the Nigerian Navy and Federal Ministry of Transportation have unveiled the navigational charts of the Lower River Niger.
The unveiling was witnessed by the Minister of Transport, Secretary to the government of federation, Chief of Naval staff, captains of industry and many other dignitaries.
The joint hydrographic survey campaign by NEXIM Bank in partnership with the Nigerian Navy, Sealink Consortium and National Inland Waterways Authority, was flagged-off precisely on November 24, 2021.
According to naval boss, Awwal Gambo, unveiling these charts is crucial for the exploitation of the vast strategic reserve of mineral resources along the Lower Niger Basin with great prospects for Nigerian’s economic diversification.
“I am particularly glad that the survey covering Phases 1 and 2 of the project, which extends from Lokoja to Burutu was completed in line with international standard and products of the painstaking survey is what has brought us here today.
“It may be recalled that during the flag-off ceremony, it was emphasised that the Federal Government under the Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative introduced several policies and programmes aimed at diversifying Nigeria’s economy as well as improving welfare, security and economic prosperity of Nigeria.
“I am delighted to state that this project is one of series of initiatives undertaken by the Federal Government toward actualizing this diversification for the benefit of Nigerians.” He said.
He added that the charts is expected to boost tourism potentials, create more job opportunities and increase economic viability.
He also noted that it would also reduce pressure on road infrastructure, as bulk cargos would be transported through the channel. Furthermore, successful opening of this River Channel for navigation will accelerate activation of concessioned inland ports and export processing zones for handling bulk cargoes from coastal areas and export of solid minerals as well as agricultural produce.
According to him, “The ceremony we are gathered here today is yet another testimony to the resolve of the Federal Government towards evolving comprehensive mechanisms to emplace sustainable infrastructure through Public Private Partnership collaborations. I therefore consider it most appropriate to appreciate Mr President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, for his unflinching support to the Nigeria Navy toward actualizing its constitutional mandate. The Nigerian Navy is indeed very grateful.
“Although, this is a preliminary step towards opening the Lower River Niger, I would like to assure this audience that the Nigerian Navy is willing to sustain partnership with NEXIM Bank, Sealink Consortium and the National Inland Waterways Authority including other critical stakeholders under this collaborative initiative to complete development of the river channel towards creating vibrant maritime activities along the Lower River Niger basin.
“I want to also assure that the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Survey Department, having recently acquired state-of-the-art survey platforms and equipment, is poised to provide standard hydrographic service delivery to all mariners within the Nation’s maritime environment towards facilitating sustainable blue economy in Nigeria.”
According to Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) boss, Mr Abba Bello, “We are indeed highly privileged that you are all able to attend and participate in this all-important programme, which marks the occasion to showcase the outcome of an indigenous survey and production of paper and electronic charts to ensure navigational safety of lower river Niger channel to boost trade.
“Historically, the River Niger and Benue were considered by the British merchants as the most navigable river channels used, hence their use in the late 19th century, where Burutu port served as a link between river transport and the sea.
“It served as a port terminal for Royal Niger Company and UAC for export cargo consolidation and discharging of goods from ships for onward water transport to river ports in Northern Nigeria and neighboring French territories through rivers Niger and Benue.
“The cessation of the use of the Burutu port in mid-1970s substantially led to considerable level of disuse of the river channel for mercantile trade, leading to siltation of the channel over the years that resulted in navigational challenges. Therefore, this informed the decision to partner with Afreximbank, Nigerian Navy and NIWA to undertake the survey/charting exercise.
“The information to be gleaned from the unveiling ceremony will no doubt provide a guide on the current state of navigability of the river channel, while which would be catalytic to ensuring the design of a framework that would enable channel improvement works necessary to facilitate the commencement of massive commercial operations on the channel, especially for Regional Sealink Project.
“Also, information provided from the outcome of the survey / charting activities will highlight the huge inland waterways potentials and opportunities in maritime infrastructure investments.”
African Export and Import Bank (AFREXIM) boss, Prof Benedict Oramah said: “We are particularly delighted to witness this day in the history of the maritime sector in Nigeria. The charting of the lower River Niger signals the take-off whistle for commencement of active maritime activities on this great river that traverses this great country – Nigeria.
“It is therefore, a day to be remembered as it looks set to mark the beginning of a new life to businesses in the country requiring to haul various commodities and solid minerals from the hinterlands to the sea shores for processing or for export.
“It is a day that will mark the beginning of new life to the economies of various communities along the lower river Niger as access to markets for their agricultural commodities will receive a boost as they get evacuated to markets in need and on time too. The lifespan of the road network will get elongated as more of the inland cargo get moved through the waterways. Overall, the economy benefits in numerous ways.
“Afreximbank is proud to have played a significant part in making the Charting possible. We provided a grant of USD350,000 for this exercise because of the critical role we know that navigability of the river Niger will play in the country’s trade facilitation and indeed overall developmental aspirations.
“We salute the steadfastness of our partners in this arrangement – Neximbank, who coordinated the activities of other Agencies like the Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority and the Nigerian Navy to birth this initiative that will definitely change the narrative in waterways transportation in Nigeria.”
Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) said the charts are products of the Joint hydrographic survey of the Lower River Niger carried out by the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Office and the National Inland Waterways Authority, (NIWA).
He noted that one of the major challenges of Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) development in Nigeria is inadequate funding.