By Ohikwo Muhammad – Lokoja
In an effort to improve maritime transportation and maximize opportunities abound in Nigeria’s waterways, the Nigeria Navy in partnership with the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA and Nigeria Export-Import Bank, NEXIM has commenced the survey and charting of Lower Rivers Niger and Benue.
At the Flag Off of the Survey at Ajaokuta Port Complex in Kogi State, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo stated that the Nigeria Navy was poised towards opening up all navigable routes across the country.
Vice Admiral Gambo who regretted that Nigeria had been unable to fully maximize the benefits of its waterways over the years noted that the Navy would ensure that the charting of the lower rivers Niger and Benue were achieved in line with international best nautical standards.
While stating that its newly acquired survey vessel had commenced operations, the Chief of Naval Staff expressed optimism that the project would strengthen maritime safety on the nation’s waterways.
Managing Director and Chief Executive of the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, Chief George Moghalu who also highlighted the benefits of the exercise to include increased foreign direct investment, job creation, and GDP growth called on other private sector players to take advantage of opportunities abound in inland waterways.
Chief Moghalu listed some achievements of NIWA to include purchase of hydrographic survey vessels and 20 patrol boats noting that the survey would give impetus to NIWA’s efforts in enhancing rapid development of inland waterways transportation in Nigeria.
On his part, Managing Director and Chief Executive, Nigeria Export-Import Bank, NEXIM, Abubakar Abba Bello disclosed that the Bank initiated the idea of setting up a coastal maritime operation for West and Central Africa to grow intra Africa trade in partnership with a consortium to decongest the ports and aid bulk hydro commodities trading such as minerals out of the country.
According to the NEXIM Bank MD, the bank recently signed a $400 million agreement with AfriEXIM Bank in support of the Sealink Project to ensure fleet supply and management, port upgrade as well as dredging where necessary after an initial grant of $350,000 offered by the bank for purchase of navigation equipment.
He emphasized NEXIM’s determination to grow Nigeria’s intra Africa trade which was low at 15 to 18% and majorly driven by oil trade.
While flagging off the Survey and Charting, Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello appreciated the choice of Kogi for commencement of the project which he said would help reactivate moribond maritime services, reduce pressure on roads, employ teeming youths as well as improve transportation of agricultural produce from the hinterlands.
The Governor used the occasion to restate his administration’s resolve in ensuring safety of citizens and residents of the state.
Chairperson, Sealink Implementation Committee, Dabney Shall-Holma stressed that mapping of the nation’s waterways would deepen investors’ and international shippers trust in Nigeria and further ensure seamless navigation in line with international best practices.
The sealink project is a public-private-partnership initiative by NEXIM, on the prompting of the organised private sector to provide and deepen direct maritime linkages within Nigeria and between African countries.