The four River ports in the country are currently unutilised despite government spending N13.65 billion on their rehabilitation, LEADERSHIP investigation has revealed.
The four river ports are located at Lokoja in Kogi State, Baro in Niger State, Onitsha in Anambra State and Oguta in Imo State.
While the river ports in Onitsha and Baro have been completed, the Oguta and Lokoja river ports have allegedly been abandoned by the contractors.
Findings revealed that works on Baro, Lokoja and Oguta river ports had attained 100, 57 and 75 per cent completion respectively. The Onitsha port has been completed and is awaiting concessioning.
LEADERSHIP recalls that the Lokoja River Port in Kogi State was awarded in 2011/2012 at a cost of N4,112,346,572.26 to Inter Bau Construction Limited and was expected to be completed in 57 weeks.
While the river port project in Oguta, Imo State, was awarded at the same period to Scott Amede Engineering Limited for a fee of N2,743,625,787.15, that of Baro River port in Niger State was awarded in 2011/12 at a cost of N2,563,499,248.00 by the Federal Executive Council to a Chinese company, Messrs CGGC Global Project.
However, despite the fact that the Onitsha River port, which was built by ex-President Shehu Shagari and rehabilitated by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan at N4.6billon in 2012, has been completed, it is still unutilised as it has been awaiting concessioning for over six years. The port is said to be presently awaiting equipment and construction of the road leading to the port.
Meanwhile, the Oguta and Lokoja ports have been left in ruins after they were awarded to Nigerian contractors who allegedly abandoned the ports after collecting mobilisation funds.
A senior management official in one of the agencies of government told LEADERSHIP at the weekend that the equipment in Onitsha port were fast deteriorating because they had never been put to use six years after the port was rehabilitated and commissioned by the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan.
The source, who craved anonymity because she was not authorised to speak to the press, said the Baro port in Niger State had also been completed but lacks access roads.
“I learnt that Baro port is completed but how will they put the port to use without an access road? How will the trucks move cargoes to and from the port,” she queried.
Speaking on Lokoja port, she said, “The contractors have not done enough; they got mobilised and nothing was done. This is the second contractor working on the project. For instance, a contractor was mobilised for N800 million but nothing concrete came out of it till today.”
Another source in the agency who also craved anonymity said government had refused to concession the Onitsha port six years after it was completed with state of the art equipment. The visibly worried senior management official wondered why concessioning a river port will take government six years to actualise, leaving multi-million dollars equipment rot away.
Confirming that Baro river port had been completed since 2014 but had no access roads, he advised the government to award a contract for the construction of the road leading to the port and to also connect it with rail.
“Government should allow Baro River port to function. They should award the road and connect Baro with rail line so that when a barge brings cargoes, it can be evacuated by rail. It is a pity that none of the river ports is functioning. Lokoja and Oguta were given to local contractors and they did not do anything appreciable, so government should follow up with the contractors to know why they refused to do the job. We are able to have Baro port because it was given to the Chinese and they finished far ahead of time,” said the source.
He noted that the Onitsha port, which was built by former President Shehu Shagari and rehabilitated by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, is ready for operation but that government’s planned concessioning is stalling operations years after commissioning.
“Niger State government can also come to the aid of the federal government by building the roads,” he said.
However, stakeholders have asked the federal government to use its political will to ensure that the river ports are functional.
In a chat with LEADERSHIP, managing director, Kaduna Inland Container Dryport, Yusuf Ismail, advised that the ports should be given to private investors to turn them around and make them attractive for activities to commence.
“I have told you before, if government wants its river ports to be functional, it will invite investors to come and invest in them, and give them the guidelines.
“They should put policies in place and there should be a regulatory body that will make sure it works; that is how it is going to work. Everything lies with government. Even the seaport in Apapa, Tincan and everywhere, if government wants them to work, it is possible. It wasn’t like this in the early ‘90s and early 2000s; that time it took us 30-40 days to take container out of the port, but when they invited investors, things changed for the better. We all are seeing the changes,” he told LEADERSHIP.
A frontline maritime stakeholder and chairman of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (NPPC), Otunba Kunle Folarin, called on the federal government to revisit all the river ports on the Niger and Benue trough and elsewhere, and make a deliberate policy to turn them around for the benefit of the government and its citizens.
He explained that with her massive coastal stretch and the benefit of harnessing its maritime potential, Nigeria could attain intermodal system of transportation easier than it can imagine.
“Governments, from time to time, are shying away from building intermodal system of transportation and this is not good at all.
“We are a maritime nation and what this means is that we can do so much with our marine environment. People should be able to move from any part of the country using water transport, rail, air or land depending on their choice, which should be economically informed,” he said.
When contacted, the spokesman of the National Inland Waterways Authority z (NIWA), Tayo Fadile, confirmed the reported conditions of Baro and Onitsha river ports.
“The Baro River port is completed, but there is no access road linking the port, while the Onitsha port is awaiting concessioning,” he said.
Fadile, however, did not comment on the Oguta and Lokoja river ports.
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