The Federal Government of Nigeria is considering concessioning the N4.9 billion Oguta, Baro and Lokoja River ports.
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), says it has received several proposals for the concessioning process. This is coming on the heels of the successful concessioning of the Onitsha River ports.
President Muhammadu Buhari has successfully completed and concessioned the Baro River ports. However, the Oguta and Lokoja River ports are still undergoing construction.
Reports say that while the Baro port was built for N2.6 billion, Oguta and Lokoja were built for N2.7 billon and N4.1 billion respectively.
Speaking on the current state of the river ports across the country, the managing director, NIWA, Dr George Moghalu, said the proposal for concessioning are being given consideration.
According to him, while private sector operators manage business better, they also have enough funds to complete the construction of the river ports.
He said, “We have received proposals for those who want us to concession Oguta and Lokoja river ports as it is undergoing construction and we are giving them serious consideration because the private sector manages business better. If we are able to concession Oguta, Lokoja river ports, we may not have resources to complete the ports but if we have private sector partners who are ready to work with us, complete the construction, take them over, run them successful, we will be happy.”
“We encourage concessioning and that’s why we have Onitsha River Port as our poster boy because we have successfully concessioned Onitsha and what that means is that we can concession others and the private sector are in charge of activities there.”
The MD, however, stated that the challenge of access road that has made the Baro river ports non-functional since it was commissioned by the President in 2019 is receiving government attention.
According to him, the federal government has approved rehabilitation of the rail line while the state government approved the construction of the dilapidated road leasing to the port.
He said, “Baro is a world class port and it has been completed. The challenge we have is not about the port but access road to the port. Am happy to tell you that the federal government is starting a road project and I engaged the Niger state government where they assured that they will fix the road.
“Also, FG has approved rail project from Baro to Kano and work is about to start on it. It’s a major milestone for the port because Baro in the precolonial days has a port and when one go their, we will see relics of offices of GB Oliver. At the port, there was a rail line, so what is needed is to rehabilitate the rail line because we need multi modal means of transportation to be able to use the port effectively.
“If cargoes comes to the port, they should be able to be discharged and will either move by rail or water depending on where the cargoes are going. Am sure that the project is on course and as regards to rail and road, in no distant future, the access to Baro river ports will be sorted and resolved,” he assured.
He stated that if the river ports are successfully concessioned, the current pressure on the roads will be reduced, thereby, increasing the roads lifespan.
Moghalu, stated that bulk cargoes are moved either by water or rail, saying Nigeria’s case can’t be different on moving heavy cargoes.
“We want to reduce the pressure on our roads. Our roads are not designed to carry the weight they are carrying. This is a statement of fact and there is no way our infrastructure will last. For example, if five million containers are going to the east per annum, what that translates to is that 10 million trailers will be on our roads. Five million taking the consignments to their destinations and five million taking the empties back. Our roads cannot carry such pressure. So anything we can do to relieve such pressure, we are going to do it.
“In civilized societies, bulk cargoes are moved either by water or rail, and ours can’t be different. Those who started it and still doing it must have a reason; there is something they saw that made them adopt the water mode of transport. We will continue to pursue our target until we fully realise it.”
Speaking on the Lagos-Onitsha barge initiatives, the NIWA MD, said he is engaging the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce and Imoorters’ association.
He said, “on the Lagos-Onitsha route, we have done our test runs, and we will continue working on it, because we haven’t gotten to where we want to be. One thing you need to know is that it is the owner of the cargo that determines where his cargo is going and how it gets there; you cannot mandate it by law.
“So what we’ve been doing is to engage several bodies, like the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce and Importers Association of Nigeria to have a buy-in, and we’ve been receiving favourable responses.
“I also recently met with the barge operators to offer them quality insurance on both the barges and cargo, as this was one of the issues raised by the importers themselves, because they want to secure their goods. They said they don’t want a situation where their goods are gambled with; where goods all the way from china or Europe gets to Nigeria and drops off on our waterways and they begin to tell them stories.
“We discussed with the barge operators for us to have an understanding that we want a reasonable insurance cover for every cargo that will go on the inland waterway, and also for the vessels themselves to be fully insured so that we can give protection to the importer. The project is a prime one for us because we want to decongest our ports.”