The dredging of the River Niger which is designed to open up the Nigerian inland waterways is progressing steadily and according to available records, 571km waterways stretching from Baro in Niger State, through Lokoja in Kogi, Onitsha in Anambra state and Warri in Delta State have already been dredged. Through this project, 28 states including the Federal Capital Territory can be linked.
The late President Umaru Musa Yar’adua commissioned the dredging of the lower River Niger on September 10, 2009, first as a major step to improve the living conditions of the rural communities along the waterways. This project was inherited by President Goodluck Jonathan with unequalled commitment and support which has invigorated the execution of the dredging project. President Goodluck Jonathan’s commitment to the project has rekindled hope in the dredging, which economic potentials are not computable.
The dredging project has become a laudable effort under the portfolio of the National Inland waterways Authority (NIWA) and the chairman is Chief A.J. Turner, an untiring leader who has thrown his weight into the project; its managing director is Arc. Ahmed Aminu Yar’adua, a steadfast and committed chief executive who is driving himself hard to ensure that undiminished result is achieved with the dredging.
The efforts of these two hard working persons were recently honoured by the Nigeria Union of Journalists, through its correspondents chapel in Abuja. The very elated Ach Yar’adua did not conceal his appreciation of President Jonathan’s support and commitment to the project. He dropped a piece of useful information that the design of the entire waterways to be dredged has been completed and areas which will be covered shortly include the waterways running through Cross River and Kaduna States and the designed channel for Ogun River has also been done.
The design and dredging are being handled by foreign and local contractors which include: William Lloyd Technical Ltd, Fungtai Eng Company Ltd, Dredging International Nig. Ltd, Jayuda International Ltd. and Van Oord Nig Ltd, while the consultants are Royal Haskoning, Enplan Group, Dredging and Marine Consult Ltd and Aim consultants.
All of these have pooled their technical expertise and their efforts have been noticeably competent.
What certainly cannot be glossed over is the very articulate knowledge of Arc. Aminu Yar’adua and what comes out of his oration as he speaks eloquently on the dredging project, are the economic benefits which are immeasurable. According to him, “a dredged River Niger will stimulate growth in virtually all key sectors of the economy: transportation, recreation, tourism, boat construction, oil and gas exploration, water supply, hydro power generation, Irrigation and fishing.” Put simply, with increased shipping activities along the dredged lower River Niger channels, most of the adjoining communities will experience increased economic activities. Arc Yar’adua is very ecstatic about this and will never forget to add that “commerce would receive a boost, thereby generating employment opportunities.” There is no doubt that the creation of sustained job opportunities will add value to life and strengthen the social interaction.
The greatest impact will be felt more in the area of transportation. First, it will make the water channels navigable all year round. Before dredging, vessels could only move from June of one year to March of the following year, but post – dredging, vessels can navigate the waterways all year round and this will facilitate conveyance of goods and persons through the water. By implication, haulage of goods by road will be reduced and traffic congestion during yuletide will almost be eliminated. NIWA did a test run on water transportation to Onitsha and it took only two and half hours instead of over six hours by road with all the attendant hitches. This is no doubt a success story which has therefore encouraged NIWA to take a step to order for shuttle vessels to start the water transportation before December this year. Arc Yar’adua also dropped the information that a 1,000 tonnes barge conveying goods from Onitsha or Lokoja will carry more goods which could be the equivalent of 33 trailers of 30 tones each, and even it will be cheaper and safer.
The economic benefits of dredging River Niger is unlimited. The people living by the river bank are predominantly fish farmers, and will benefit immensely from the dredging River Niger. According to Yar’adua, post – dredging, fishing will experience a boom, especially during the dry season when the deep –sea and coastal fish catch is usually low.
There is no doubt that dredging provides a world of new opportunities in the wide areas of energy, power and tourism and what NIWA craves for is the interest of local and foreign investors to take advantage of the new business opportunities. This is no doubt a tremendous feat for which NIWA deserves to be credited. This therefore did not go unnoticed. The correspondents chapel, of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abuja singled NIWA’S chairman Chief A.J. Turner and Arc. Ahmed Aminu Yar’adua for recognition and they were honoured as outstanding Chief Executives of the year 2010. Chairman of the Chapel Timothy Elerewe, noted at the investiture that they are personages whose credentials speak volumes and whose pedigrees are outstanding. He noted again that NIWA is an organization doing something which in totality will make life extremely easy for the Nigerian people.
The Vice President Zone H of the NUJ, Otunba Gbenga Onayiga who represented the President of the NUT, Mallam Mohammed Garba as the chairman of the occasion siad it is agreeably true that NIWA deserves quality attention of the media for the inherent economic potential that abounds in the dredging of the nation’s waterways. It cannot be stressed too much that the National Inland Waterways Authority deserves sustained encouragement so that the dredging programme can be concluded logically and the truth that comes out of this, is that allied businesses will pick up and the impact will be generally positive.