By Zika Bobby
Chief George Muoghalu, newly appointed Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), in this interview talks about his plans to refocus the organisation for 2020.
There is lack of awareness. I have been here barely two months, a lot of people don’t know about NIWA. They don’t know what NIWA stands for. A lot don’t know the responsibilities of NIWA. I see this as a challenge that has to be addressed.
Unlike in the past, the resources available to government is not much anymore, so it requires us to think out of the box, to look inwards to see what we can do to generate the needed resources internally. With this, we can carry out the responsibilities of the authority. So, funding is also a major challenge. I will work to make the waterways attractive, to explore the tourism potential, business potential and many more.
Security of our waterways is also a challenge. We are working closely with the marine police and Navy to address it. But the truth be told, these challenges are surmountable, and we are focused to solving them.
Another area is that of staff training. Building and developing manpower is also a weak area that is of great concern to me. This is a great challenge because you have to build people, you have to develop them to become reliable professionals so that they can understand your vision and core mandate, and then see issues from your own perspectives. Making the workforce see from your own mirror creates the likelihood of getting to your own destination with ease because there will be harmony of vision.
Readiness of Baro Port, Onitsha River Port and Oguta Jetty for operation
Immediately after my appointment, I visited the Baro Port. That was my first visit and I went by waterways to Baro so I can see the state of the channels and I have also gone to Onitsha Port. I went round Onitsha Port seeing all the ancillary services that would enhance businesses in the area. I have also gone to Oguta Port.
Baro port is complete as we speak, the Onitsha Port is complete, the Oguta Port is about 58 per cent complete.
On the status, talking about readiness to use, the Onitsha port is undergoing a concession process. If not for the challenge they had as regards the concession process and petition by some persons who participated in the process, that caused us to go to the National Assembly and ICRC taken over to resolve the issues, the concession process for Onitsha Port would have been completed by now.
Like I said, Baro is completed. It’s a case of lack of funding or provision in the budget to address the issue but I am determine to bring it back, because I needed to know what the situation was on the ground before I make a case for it, just like am going to other river ports and all our area offices in about 25 states.
As I go to areas where we have river ports, I also visit our offices and look at what our issues and challenges are, with a view to finding solutions.
I have also visited the Lokoja River port which is under construction. The stage where these projects are is such that we cannot afford to abandon them because government has made a lot of investments in them already.
The option left for us now is to complete them and possibly concession them and put them into use, otherwise they will remain abandoned and resources already invested will be wasted. I don’t think that’s a wise decision to take. So that’s where we are on those ones, efforts are being made to complete and put them into use.
Like we know Nigeria is endowed with a wide maritime space. We are blessed with over 10,000 km of waterways that link almost 28 states in this country. As we speak, over 3,000 km of 10,000km is navigable all-year round. This we are conscious of.
It is our desire and determination to open up the lakes to make sure that these channels are open all-year round.
We are working to have navigational aids, and making sure that these channels are free. We are addressing the issue of insecurity, which the Ministry of Transport is determined to fight. The Nigerian Navy and the marine police are also determined to fight the issue of insecurity on the waterways like I said earlier.
In the 60’s and early 70’s, through Sapele and Lagos we had constant movement, we also have tourism potential and this are realities facing us and NIWA is determined to bring back the good old days.
If our waterways are free flowing, it has a lot of impact to make on our transport system and it will affect us positively. The life span of our roads will be longer. It will reduce the pressure on our roads. If cargoes are moved by water to any part of our river port, by the time this is done, you would have removed a whole lot of trucks from the road.
We are determined to see that we bring back the good old days of safe and reliable water transportation. Discussions on the matter have gone very far, and very soon we are going to sign memorandum of understanding.
We can achieve 5000 employments if we succeed with these plans . We can generate even more.
First of all, we want to reposition NIWA. In 2020 we are looking at a repositioned NIWA, with a more committed staff who understand their mandate.
We want to massively build on our manpower, we want to challenge them, we are looking also to a NIWA that has very improved services.
We will pursue debt recovery. Those who owe us must pay. Those who want our services must pay and all these things must be properly documented so that we can have higher degree of accountability and transparency.
No. We cant give you the list of the debts. We are working on it for now, because there are cases of underpayment, some people are using our right of ways. There are also cases of people who don’t want to pay even when they are using our right of way, even some people refuse to pay their passage fees. So we want to get these things documented to get them to pay.
They must pay because there are tariffs clearly spelt out for services, so we need to get these things properly documented so that we can go after them to pay.
We will work to make NIWA contribute to our economy, improve on our GDP and boost government revenue in the long term.