The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has commenced the process of concessioning Oguta, Lokoja and Baro River ports.
Speaking at the formal handing over of the Onitsha River Port to the concessionaire in Abuja, the Managing Director of NIWA, Dr George Moghalu, said the authority had ”learnt on the job.”
According to him, experience gained through the concession of the Onitsha River Port will speed up other port concessioning processes in the country.
While lamenting the time taken for the process to be completed, he said it was expected, being the first port to be a concession in the maritime sector.
”You cannot even quantify the challenges. First of all, you are doing something you haven’t done before.
”As we speak, Onitsha River Port’s successful concession is the first in the maritime industry. So, the first time is certainly different.
”If by the time we do the second, third and fourth ones like we have on the pipeline, they are certainly not going to take as much time this first one took because we have learnt on the job.
”But if it is whether we have gained a lot of experience, we have. Whether we have confidence in the process, we have. As to whether expectations are high, expectations are high and we are going to be guided.
”And when you are doing this type of thing, you must do it properly in line with international best practice.
”PPP arrangements on concessioning processes is not a Nigerian thing, it has an international standard that must be followed because you can’t change the rules because we are involved,” Moghalu said.
On vessels, the NIWA boss said lots of vessels fell within the limit of the available draft adding that draft determined the type of vessels expected at any port.
He said the major emphasis however was on using the bagging process to move consignments from Apapa and Tincan to Onitsha and other inland ports.
On security, Moghalu said arrangements were on the ground to ensure adequate security at the port.
”Let me place on record the support we have received from the Nigerian Navy. Don’t forget that NIWA has its own police, there is also the Marine police, and there is also our national police.
”But the truth I want to tell you now is that everybody is concerned, just like the roads, we have security challenges.
”So, we are going to be addressing the challenges as they come, that, I can assure you, but we are not scared about it, because it is not unsurmountable,” Moghalu restated.
He explained that the concessioned port had not been willed to the concessionaires by the Federal Government, thus, there would be proper monitoring to ensure they met their end of the bargain.
He said: “The Federal Government is going to gain a lot of money. We are expecting about four billion naira in the first instance; the benefit which will be there are more tangible.
”The traders will be able to access their goods near, the pressure that is going to be on our roads will be reduced, the congestion in Apapa and Tincan will be reduced to the bearest minimum.
”We know and statistics have shown that over 60 per cent of the containerised items that arrive both Tincan and Apapa end in the South East.
”So simply put, if five million containers arrive in Lagos from South East, for example, it translates to 10 million trailers being on our road. Five million bringing it and five million taking the containers back.
”So, if we can now move it by the water we have reduced that pressure on the road, we have saved our infrastructure.
So, there is quite a lot of advantages in getting that Onitsha port functioning optimally.”
On his part, the concessionaire of the port, Dr George Nwangwu, expressed optimism that his company (Universal Elysium Consortium) would deliver their end of the bargain.
He said Nigeria is not an easy place to do business, bearing in mind the various challenges encountered by businessmen.
He said they would, however, employ their experience in PPP and privatisation to ensure the success of the project.
”We have serious experience in that and we have been immensely successful.
”We have the right partners. We have the right structure, we have access to finance to do this project, so, we are certainly sure that we will be successful.
Nwangwu, however, urged the government to continue to dredge the channels to ensure the baggies move smoothly. nan.