Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
The Federal Government has promised to tackle disturbing high volume of carnages on Nigeria highways through making Onitsha, Baro and other Ports fully operational to decongest haulage of cargoes by heavy duty vehicles accounting for the accidents on the Nigeria roads.
Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, made the promise when the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr George Moghalu paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja.
Expressing concerns over the volume of carnages on Nigeria highways, the SGF, argued that if inland waterways, stretching about 10,000 kilometres, networking over 26 states of the federation, is fixed, other modes of transportation in the country will not face any difficulty.
“Let me start by congratulating the MD/CEO of NIWA for the one year anniversary and the supporting staff that have helped to run the affairs of NIWA. I never had any doubt that Moghalu is going to distinguish himself in spite of the fact that NIWA had in the past two decades or more, been a very challenged institution. I strongly believe that the prospects of NIWA far outweigh those challenges.
“I know that with the attitude you went to NIWA, you have been able to improve on the modest achievement I left behind. Even as I have left NIWA, my dream for the institution never left me. I see NIWA as a mode of transportation that is going to bring a total turnaround in the transport mode of this country.
“I have consistently said that unless we fix our inland waterways that stretched about 10,000 kilometres, networking over 26 states of the federation, it will be difficult to fix the other modes of transportation in this country. I say with all degree of seriousness that all the developed countries never neglected their inland waterways means of transportation because of its comparative advantage.
“It carries more cargoes, more efficient, eco-friendly and lots of businesses in terms of developing industrial hubs around the settlements near the ports areas and it has been tried and tested in Nigeria. The history of how the British government ran the affairs of this country and the networks of the locations of our early ports, gives a clear picture that they needed those infrastructures for the purposes of extracting whatever resources they have and movement of people and cargoes.
“The inland waterways provide cheaper rate and alternate means of transportation. As long as we fail to fix the inland waterways, we will continue to grapple with the problems of our highways because almost 75 per cent of cargoes on our highways ought not to go through there.
“Heavy duty commodities like cement among others can efficiently be hauled through the waterways. Rail transportation and our highways ought to complement our inland waterways because of the two major rivers and their tributaries with networks into 28 of the 36 states of the federation.
“The carnages on our highways have put Nigeria in trouble because I see Federal Road Safety reports, on weekly basis, on the disturbing volume of carnages on our highways. If we get the trucks carrying such products as cement and petroleum and other heavy duty haulages off the roads, we will save our roads and lessen the cost of maintenance.
“You have a herculean task of taking off where we stopped moving in the direction of creating intermodal means of sustainable transportation in this country. The developments of ports that I met have continued coming into fruition. You can’t imagine the leap of joy I had in my heart when I saw cargoes arriving Onitsha port. It means that we are going back to critical recreation of the infrastructure that gave Nigeria its prominence.
“By the time I came to NIWA, Onitsha port has already been rehabilitated and ready for use. But, we used it as a warehouse. We initiated the processes of the Onitsha port to be concession to the point of inviting bids. Ensure that it is completed expeditiously so that we will have a flagship we can show to the world that we have inland water port managed efficiently and effectively for the purposes of movement of goods and cargoes.
“You can count on my total support when it comes to the issues of development of inland waterways and by extension, establishing the footprint of the national inland waterways as a central organisation to drive the quest for intermodal transport system,” he charged.
Speaking further, he said: “The other port we have finished and commissioned is Baro Port. Regardless of whatever anybody says, the British were strategic in the building of Baro port. Lord Lugard didn’t make mistake because it was used for the movement of produce largely produced in the central belt or middle belt area. They involve cotton, groundnut pyramid taken from Kano.
“When they want to start railway, the Baro rail track is over 100 years. We have then Lagos and Ibadan. It was the fusion of the two railways that became Nigeria Railway Corporation. We can see the interconnectivity of the mode of transport that the British laid out, which subsequent government didn’t pay attention to.
“I believe that under the leadership of President Buhari, we have demonstrated by the completion of the Baro Port and augmentation of the completion of the Lokoja Port and by the time Onitsha Port becomes operational and the rail track proposed from Ajeokuta to Baro will link up with all the rail tracks and by the time we are able to do that, it will go a long way in enhancing the movement of bulk cargo that ought not to be on our highways, it will make transportation cheaper and saver for our people.
“I took time to explain all these to inform you of the herculean responsibility you have. Plan very well but you need to push because as I said, national inland waterways have not enjoyed the prominence it ought to enjoy.
“We left behind the issues of procurement of batches to ensure that we won’t only provide the leadership but demonstrate the capacity of the fact that this thing is doable, knowing Nigerians that nobody will invest his money if government did not demonstrate to give leadership in that particular trade and organisation,” the SGF noted.
Earlier, Moghalu had thanked him for supports, urging him not to turn his back on the agency.