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NIWA accused of deceit over Onitsha River Port as House probes maritime agencies

The House of Representatives has accused the
Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) of lack of honesty in the proposed
concession of the Onitsha River Port.

This was as the House started investigation on alleged
malpractices in government agencies in the maritime industry.

The Chairman of the House Committee on Ports, Harbours and
Waterways, Dr Pat Asadu while speaking during the probe which kicked off Monday
in Abuja said the management of NIWA has been misleading the general public on
the Onitsha River Port.

According to him, the management of NIWA has never wanted the
Onitsha River port to work, adding that the agency has been making claims that
are not verifiable.

News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the Speaker saying that
there was nothing to show for the huge sums of money so far spent on the

Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr Yakubu Dogara
described the allegations raised against NIWA were very weighty and capable of
affecting the economy.

Dogara said the federal government needs an effective
maritime sector for the benefit of the national economy and called for
diversification drive in the industry.

While commending the executive arm for the efforts in
repositioning the sector, he however said it would be unacceptable for ports in
other West African to take the hub for international freight and trade from

He said, “ I must say that the maritime industry in Nigeria
is yet to attain the desired and expected status of becoming the hub for
international freight and trade in West Africa.

“In this regard, it has been observed that over the years,
the Nigerian maritime industry has failed to attract the required local and
foreign investment inflow that is proportionate to its contribution to both the
Nigerian and West African economy, despite its great potential and enormous
investment opportunities.”

“According to the National Bureau of Statistics in March,
Nigeria’s Ports dropped down the global ratings basically due to bad

“Interestingly, major competitors in the West African region,
such as the Port of Lome in Togo, Port of Dakar in Senegal, and the Port of
Cotonou in Benin Republic, all deliver better efficient services than the
Nigerian Ports.

“This is really not acceptable.
“”Some of the problems that have been identified as the
reasons the Nigerian Ports are performing so poorly include bad infrastructure,
high cost of doing business and low draught at a lot of our major waterways.

“It is our hope that the Legislative exercise being carried
out through this committee will proffer lasting solutions to these problems.”

Dogara called on the federal government to dredge the
seaports to be able to attract more traffic.

He said, “It has also been pointed out by stakeholders that
dredging our port channels will increase traffic to our ports and invariably
increase economic productivity.

“For instance, if we have cargoes going up north to places
such as Kaduna, Kano and Maiduguri, such cargoes would not need to go through
Lagos, which is already so congested.

“But for this to happen, the channels of other ports need to
be dredged.

“Reports have it that the Lagos water channel is about 14.5
meters deep, while the Port Harcourt and Calabar channels are less than 10
meters deep, which limits their capacity to receive big cargo ships.

“This explains why there is so much congestion at the Lagos
Port. If we must make the expected progress in our maritime sector, all
available resources must be accountably and prudently managed to meet the
various demands for improved infrastructure.”

The speaker further highlighted other factors militating
against the development of the maritime sector.

The factors, he said, include alleged arbitrary increases in
charges by terminal operators, inefficient collection and accounting
procedures, and contract repetitions and payment of huge commissions to service
providers compared to remittances to the Federation Account, among others.

According to him, if these allegations are anything to go by,
we can understand why the sector has recorded persistent decline in performance
and economic growth over the years.

The speaker pointed out that these are serious allegations
which need to be looked into.

The investigative hearing was necessitated by seven maritime
related motions on issues relating to Guaranteed Minimum Tonnage at the Nigeria
Ports, extra budgetary spending and other financial improprieties by terminal
operators and service providers engaged by the Nigerian Ports Authority.

Others are abandonment of dredging projects by companies so
contracted, even after allegedly receiving payments and alleged illegal
disposal of lands and properties belonging to the Nigerian Ports Authority and
the National Inland Waterways Authority of Nigeria.(NAN)

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