The Nigerian Navy, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), and the Nigerian Export and Import Bank (NEXIM) have begun surveying and charting for the lower River Niger and River Benue for improved waterway ports in order to stimulate socio-commercial activities in the country.
Mrs Dabney Shell-Holma, Chairperson, Sealinks Consortium, one of the project’s handlers, said on Wednesday in Lokoja that the project will connect the country’s inland waterways to 25 African countries and Europe in terms of transportation and trade connectivity.
According to her, the project, which spans 932,000 square kilometers, will employ over 5,000 Nigerians.
“I am sure British Government will be celebrating what we are doing here today and will say, Nigeria has finally woken up from sleep.
“It’s a fact that 25 countries within the sub-African region are crippled because of lack of waterways, thereby making maritime or shipping business very difficult.
“This is why I said Britain will celebrate this flag-off ceremony.
“For more than 10 years, we have been hoping to see this day and thanks be to God it’s happening for real at Ajeokuta, the best port for the waterways.
“Sealinks Consortium is greatful to Afreximbank and NEXIM which have committed 750,000 dollar-grant to Improve Nigeria’s inland waterways operations which when completed will reduce transportation challenges in Nigeria by 50 per cent and boost the nation’s economy, ” she said.
Mr George Muoghalu, the Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), reiterated NIWA’s commitment to the successful execution of the project.
“The project is designed to directly improve the navigability of the nation’s inland waterways and enhance the efficiency and safety of navigation,” he said.
Muoghalu noted that the authority, among other things, had acquired two state-of-the-art hydrographic survey vessels to guarantee continuous survey of waterways, purchased 20 patrol boats and ambulances to enhance the safety of navigation on the highways.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral Awwal Gambo, described the project as “government’s statement” towards expanding the nation’s transportation system through waterways and improve the nation’s economy.
He assured the government of navy’s commitment towards bringing out world class chart that would meet international standard for maritime safety and national security
Gov. Yahaya Bello of Kogi also expressed happiness over the inauguration of the survey and charting of the lower Rivers Niger and Benue and described it as the “pride of Kogi citizens,” and Nigerians as a whole.
Bello expressed confidence that the project, when completed would provide jobs to more Nigerians and turn around the nation’s transportation and stimulate development.
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