• Monday, May 27, 2024
businessday logo

BusinessDay

Paucity of funds stalls Inland Waterways project – Minister

Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr. Steve Oru_510x350The Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Dr Steve Oru, on Friday said that dwindling finances was delaying the implementation of the inland waterways project.

He said that the concept of the waterways transportation system was to create a network of waterways in the Niger Delta region.

According to him, the project would serve as alternative mode of transportation connecting the core riverine communities.

“Nigeria has the second longest length of waterways in Africa with 8,600 kilometres of inland waterways and an extensive coastland of about 852 kilometres.,” he said.  “Nigeria’s waterways centre on its longest rivers; Rivers Niger and Benue, which dissect the country into east, west and north sections.

“The two rivers run into each other at Lokoja and flow into the Atlantic Ocean.  The coastal waterways extend from Badagry through Warri to Calabar.

“Most of the activity on the country’s waterways, especially by larger powered boats and for commerce, is in the Niger Delta,’’ he said.

Oru said that the ministry in its 2011 budget awarded four design consultancy contracts for dredging of three major rivers in the region in order to realise the project.

He said the rivers included Imo, Cross Rivers and nine jetty design projects which are all ongoing.

The minister stated that water transport was slow and unsuitable for passenger movement, noting that efficient inland waterways system would relieve pressure on a country’s rail and road transport infrastructure.

“Inland water transport is advantageous in terms of costs of moving heavy traffic, especially where speed is less important than cost.

“A single 15 barge tow is equivalent to about 225 railroad cars or 870 tractor-trailer trucks.

“This would be advantageous in the transportation of tonnes of agricultural products from the middle belt areas to the delta areas through the waterways and verse versa.

“Hopefully, this will bring about a fall in food prices in the regions too’’.

Oru said that the ministry has proposed the development of a Seaport in Gelegele, Edo, to open up the hinterland in the zone that would enhance commerce and trade to thrive better.

He noted that the engineering design has been completed with the hope that the construction contract would be awarded in the nearest future.

NAN