As the nation pursues optimal utilisation of its waterways or shipping routes, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), said Nigeria presently has about 3000 kilometers (km) of navigable waterways from Nigeria/Niger and Nigeria/Cameroon borders to the Atlantic Ocean.
The depth and size of the waterways, which include rivers, lakes, seas oceans and canals, determine the type and size of ships and vessels that travel through them.
The General Manager Corporate Affairs, NIWA, Tayo Fadile, who stated this in a lecture titled: “Nigeria Inland Waterways Infrastructure Development: Opportunity and Challenges”, at an industry event in Lagos recently said that the navigable waterways included the nation’s portion of the Lake Chad, creeks and lagoons.
The NIWA spokesman noted that a developed inland waterways resources would open up windows of economic opportunities that would attract Public Private Partnership in the sector.He listed investment that could be harnessed through the inland waterways infrastructure resources to include provision of job opportunities, integrating rural communities, dockyard services and management, cargo barges and work boats construction, tanker barges construction for fuel transportation and storage and passenger and bulk cargo ferry service.
Others include tank farms, tourism and hospitality service delivery, oil and gas exploration and supply services, poverty allegation, establishment of private ports and jetties, production, concessioning of inland river ports/ jetties, pipeline network laying among other investment opportunities.
Noting that Nigeria’s natural endowment in inland waterways was about 10,000 kilometers, Fadile said this if developed through dredging and provision of auxiliary facilities would provide all year round navigation for transportation of bulk cargo and passengers.
“The Act vests in NIWA the power to exclusively manage, regulate and control activities and operations on Nigeria’s inland waterways. This power is exercised on Nigeria’s over 3000 kilometers of navigable waterways from the Nigeria/Niger and Nigeria/Cameroon borders to the Atlantic Ocean, including the nation’s portion of the Lake Chad, creeks and lagoons. Nigeria is blessed with a river configuration very suitable for North-South movement of people and cargo,” he stated.
Fadile however noted that despite its great potential and opportunities it provides for the economic development, the nation’s waterways resources were grossly underutilised and underdeveloped, adding that in order to elicit efficient, prudent and profitable utilisation of the Nigerian inland waterways transport system, the federal government was poised to transforming inland waterways infrastructure facilities in line with government shared vision and initiative towards a modern competitive multi-modal inland water transport system with best practices and service consistent with current global standards.
The general manager maintained that the inland waterways huge infrastructural deficit had thrown up opportunities for investment in virtually all physical infrastructure and recourses extraction in the sector saying that an improvement in the institutional structure and features of inland waters system and its associated public utilities were essential to attain economic growth.
He listed areas of infrastructural intervention requirements to include dredging to remove silt and other impediments, River ports and jetties, installation and maintenance of navigational aids such as dams, dykes and river training works including construction of dams, dykes and groins to ensure the achievement of highest level of efficiency and seamless operations.
Others include; improvement of port linked flow in landward connection to the ports, river bank protection and maintenance of dredged channels.
“Through infrastructural development, the adequacy of inland waterways infrastructure helps determine Nigeria’s success and failure diversifying its production, expanding trade (domestic and foreign) with its growing population, reducing poverty or improving economic growth. Inland water transport is one of the seven major infrastructural factors, other factors are energy, agriculture, communication, finances, education and health”, he said.
The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala Usman, had recently assured that it would continue the dredging of Nigerian waterways to enable bigger vessels to call at the nations seaports.
She also said the Authority would improve on the existing security arrangements with the Nigerian Navy and other stakeholders in the maritime sector, adding that securing the nation’s waterways will impact positively on revenue generation.