By Moses Akaigwe
The management of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has engaged top gear in its quest to reduce the presence of container-laden heavy duty trucks on the Lagos-South East roads, by shipping cargoes through internal channels to the now operational Onitsha River Port.
Recently, the NIWA managing director, Dr. George Moghalu, led a management team to the Force Headquarters, Abuja, where they sought the cooperation of the Nigeria Police in the successful implemention of shipment of cargo from Lagos to Onitsha.
Moghalu informed the Inspector-General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba, that, as a Federal Government agency entrusted with the development of the nation’s inland waterways and supervising activities thereon, NIWA needs to build synergy with the police in order to deliver on its mandate.
The managing director re-stated NIWA’s commitment to the timely implementation of the plan to move cargoes from Lagos to Onitsha through the waterways, which he explained was intended to decongest the ports in Lagos, and ensure safer motoring on the roads to the east.
The NIWA MD specifically sought the collaboration of the police in providing security for the second test-run of cargo shipment from Lagos ports to Onitsha.
He was upbeat that the support of the police would allay the fears of cargo owners regarding security during the test-run, saying he believed the interaction with the IGP would boost the confidence of stakeholders.
He also disclosed that barging of cargoes to Onitsha River Port, which has now come alive after about 40 years since conception in the 1980s, would boost commercial and industrial activities in the south-eastern part of the country.
Chief Moghalu remarked that, “The purpose of our visit is to seek collaboration and cooperation of the police force to build a synergy in our inland waterways operations, most importantly now that we are about to commence the second phase of the test-run of shipping cargoes from Lagos to Onitsha.
“NIWA is a federal agency saddled with the responsibility of regulating and developing activities on the Inland waterways of the nation with headquarters in Lokoja, Kogi State.”
We have 22 area offices across the nation and waterways links across 28 states in the federation.”
Moghalu, who is aspiring to be the governor of Anambra State under the platform of the All Progressives Congress, disclosed that statistics have shown that about 60 percent of cargoes coming into Nigerian ports have the south-eastern as their destination.
This, he said, has made the Lagos-Onitsha shipment of cargo through the inland waters, very imperative, even as he reiterated the impact it would have on road safety because it is envisaged that the number of heavy duty vehicles trucking containers to the east would considerably reduce.
He thanked the IGP for enabling the cooperation that exists between the Police and the NIWA Inland Police Command, appealing for more support in addressing some of the challenges the Authority is facing, including lack of gun boats, accoutrements and anti-riot equipments.
He also appealed to the IGP to address the issue of some police officers illegally occupying parts of the organisation’s premises in the Onitsha Area Office which, by law, is under NIWA’s right of way. He said the vacation of the occupied area would enable the agency make better use of it.
The NIWA MD congratulated Usman Alkali Baba on his appointment as the Inspector General of Police by President Muhammadu Buhari, and wished him a successful tenure.
Responding, the Inspector-General thanked the Managing Director of NIWA and his management team for the visit, stating, “I thank you for coming to congratulate me and intimate me with the developments and challenges you have in your organisation.”
The IG further assured: “We have a very good and cordial working relationship with NIWA and we recognise the kind cooperation that NIWA is rendering to the inland and Marine Police, though we need improvement in some areas.”
He also stated, “To have gun boats is capital-intensive, but the force will look for a way to support NIWA in its areas of operations.”
Alkali Baba disclosed that he was once the head of the Marine Police when he was an AIG, which made him to know much about NIWA and its operations and activities in the maritime sector.
He promised to ensure the sustenance of the good working relationship with NIWA in all its areas of operations, in addition to providing the organisation with support where it is needed.