The Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), George Moghalu, on Tuesday, disclosed why some goods exported from Nigeria face rejection abroad.
According to him, the goods are rejected because they spend over three months before they are processed for shipping.
He said the long time makes the goods which are mostly perishable lose quality and the transporter incurring financial loss.
He also said there is the need to open up Onitsha River Port, adding that about 60 per cent of goods shipped into the country through Apapa port are destined for Onitsha and Aba.
He also revealed that only about 3,000 of the 10,000 kilometres of the Nigerian waterways are navigable.
He further said the challenges witnessed in the maritime sector would only be addressed when inland waterways become fully functional.
Moghalu disclosed these in Abuja during a visit by the management of Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank led by its Managing Director, Abba Bello.
He said: “We are interested in getting goods to move. Exporters are lamenting that their goods sometimes spend three months at the export terminal in Apapa and another two months before it gets moved.
“We don’t have exclusivity to these goods and that why we get lots of rejection, they generally say products from Nigeria are not good not knowing that at the point where you took them, they were world-class quality but by the time we suffer delays at the port when it gets to its destination, it is gone bad.”
On the essence of functional waterways, he said: “I believe very strongly that not and until we develop inland waterways the way they should be, will the challenges we have in the maritime today be solved.
“It is when the inland waterways become fully functional that we will decongest Apapa port. It is when it is fully functional that we will save our rail infrastructure from total decay because our roads are not designed to carry the weight they are carrying.
“All over the world, bulk cargo is either moved by water or by rail but more by rail and our cannot be different. We have over 10,000 kilometres of waterways in this country, as we speak today it is slightly over 3000 that is only navigable which for me is scandalous.
“If we do a little investment in our waterway infrastructure, a lot will be achieved for the benefit of this country.”
On the decongestion of Apapa port, the NIWA boss said: “We cannot have a world-class port in Onitsha and Apapa port is congested. Meanwhile, over 60 per cent of the cargoes are destined for Onitsha and Aba.
“So, why can’t we move these cargoes directly to Onitsha? I don’t expect the mask vessels to come to Onitsha but badges can move from Apapa to Onitsha and offload the goods. We are going to save transporters lots of costs and at the same time, it is convenient for the operators.”
Moghalu also said plans are underway to concession Onitsha river port before the end of the year.
“Onitsha river port, in no distant time, we are going to conclude with the concessioning process. I am sure before the end of this year, we would have concluded with Onitsha river port concessioning.
“We have started the process of distributing patrol boats. We have released three patrol boats to Lagos and by next week, the minister of transportation will be in Port Harcourt to commission some of our patrol boats, top boats and houseboats so that we can deploy them.
“We are deploying patrol boats all over our waterways to ensure that security is addressed and people obey required protocols to get things in place,” he added
Earlier, the Managing Director of NEXIM Bank, Abba Bello requested a continued partnership with NIWA to ensure trade opens up when its sea transportation and logistics company becomes operational.
The company which is christened sealink company is expected to boost trade across Africa.
On what the company would contribute to the economy, Bello said: “There is enormous potential and one of the biggest aside from the creation of jobs which comes automatically in the maritime industry and other sectors that will open up, for instance, is mining.
“Today mining contributes only 3percent to the GDP and while there are challenges, one of the things stopping the development of that industry is the evacuation of the mineral, many of them are heavy minerals and we don’t have the logistics capacity to move them to the ports for evacuation.
“Luckily, most of the mineral resources are within the central area and the river cuts across and we think that by operationalising the see link consortium, one of the biggest beneficiaries will be the mining sectors; jobs will be created, and additional revenue.
“We all know what is happening in Apapa, we cannot continue relying on Apapa as the only evacuation and receiving port in Nigeria. So, we have to look at other jetties.
“Baro port, we hope you will allow us to use the port when we start maybe in terms of the partnership or you lease it out to sealink but any option that will be beneficial to the economy will be welcomed by us,” he said.