The Federal Government has approved $186million to combat piracy on Nigerian waters and N100 million to dredge River Niger.
The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed at a one-day National Conference on Fast-Tracking Port Reforms with the theme “Making Nigerian Seaports World Class’’, in Lagos on Thursday.
The conference was organised by The Nation newspaper.
Amaechi explained that “Mr President has approved 186 million dollars to fight piracy in our waters.
“The fund will be used to buy three helicopters, three aircraft, 12 vessels stationed in the waters and 20 Armoured Personnel Carriers.
“In the next three months, all of these will be deployed to fight piracy in our waters.
“We promised change. Change is not talked about, it is felt. That is why we asked that the people should give us time,’’ the minister said.
Amaechi explained that N100 million had been budgeted for the dredging of the River Niger.
“When the River Niger was first approved for dredging by the previous administration, it was approved for N47 billion and N34 billion was paid to the contractor. Dancers were called in and there was a party.
“We are not dredging the River Niger with billions of naira, we are dredging the River Niger with just N100 million.
“When we flagged it on recently, did you see us dance? Was there a party?
“I just went to see the governor and I told him that the project will start today and will be finished in one month.
“The governor said he will accompany me. So, I asked the governor to flag it on since it is located in his state.
“People are wondering how on earth we are going to dredge the River Niger for N100 million when the previous government awarded same contract for N47 billion’’, Amaechi said.
The minister said the River Niger would be dredged using dredgers owned by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
“NIWA has dredgers but the previous government preferred to give contractors money to dredge the river with private dredgers, while NIWA’s dredgers were lying idle somewhere in Port Harcourt.
“The NIWA managing director told me the agency has dredgers but it has been hired out to somebody in Port Harcourt.
“So, we had dredgers but the previous administration hired it out to some persons in Port Harcourt, while paying a contractor billions of naira to use privately- owned dredgers at a very high cost.
“I told the NIWA managing director that I will look for money to fuel their dredgers and work has started. That is why we are dredging the River Niger with just N100 million’’, Amaechi said.
He also said the Federal Government had concluded plans to link Nigerian ports and terminals with other modes of transportation for effective inter-modal transportation system.
According to him, government has commenced the construction of the Lagos-Ibadan rail line, which is the second segment of the Lagos-Kano standard gauge system with an extension to Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa.
He said the ministry had implemented the International Cargo Tracking Note and adopted the Integrated Advanced Cargo and Customs Clearance System with Scanning Sealing and Tracking capabilities.
“The ministry has also developed a Port Service Support Portal to handle stakeholders’ complaints as well as established an Integrated Port and Maritime Data Centre, which would generate reliable trade data for easy accessibility to all agencies.
“The maritime sector has succeeded in the implementation of Single Window platform geared toward elimination of multiplicity of agencies with the creation of single clearance and payment desk.
“The desk will serve as a vital reform measure with an immediate cross-cutting positive impact in the port’’, Amaechi said.
He said the ministry was adopting the Public Private Partnership to fund access routes to the ports through road, rail and truck parks with online call-up systems.
Amaechi said effective implementation of all the port reforms would improve port efficiency and provide better use of manpower and reduce the time of doing business at Nigerian ports.
Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Ms Hadiza Usman, said that essential components of transportation were crucial for wealth creation.
Usman said that NPA and the Nigeria Customs Service had concluded the operational model for the establishment of the National Single Window.
She said that the organisation would commence public tender process of selecting the vendors that would deploy the information technology infrastructure in the next few months.
“Presently the function of the ports is not only limited to the traditional activities but expanded to a logistics platform.
“A port is also a place for the provision of services, which adds value to the products transported and thus help in increasing demand of trade”, she said.
Usman said that the Federal Government, under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari, had identified agriculture and solid minerals as upbeat and the maritime industry would be responsible for the movement
Host of the event and Managing Director, Vintage Press, Mr. Victor Ifijeh, said the conference was put together to address the ills in the nation’s maritime sector.
“We all know the problems of Nigerian seaports. They have been well-documented.
“Until these problems are adequately addressed, the need for more engagements like the one we are having today cannot be over emphasised.
“We hope this forum can help by instituting a peer-facilitated platform to hold the agencies accountable’’, Ifijeh said. (NAN)