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Parlous State Of Nigeria’s River Ports



In Nigeria, none of the four river ports is functional despite government’s spending N13.65 billion to resuscitate it. YUSUF BABALOLA writes.

Unlike other developed countries that have viable riverine ports, Nigeria river ports are the least developed and already in a sorry state despite huge government’s intervention.For instance, in India, the Port of Kolkata is a riverine port in the city of Kolkata, India, located around 203 kilometres (126 mi) from the sea. It is the oldest operating port in India, and was constructed by the British East India Company.

With the turn of the century, the volume of throughput at the Indian River port increased steadily with the port  having capacity of processing annually 650,000 containers,  mostly from Nepal, Bhutan, and India’s northeastern states.

According to findings, the port handles automobiles, motorcycles and general industrial cargo including iron ore, granite, coal, fertilizers, petroleum products, and containers with Iron ore, leather, cotton textiles as it major export while Wheat, raw cotton, machinery, iron & steel are the major import. While, Nigerian river ports rot,  the Kolkata river port generate $170million annually for the government.

Also, there is  the riverine port in South Africa known as the port of East London. The port is South Africa’s only remaining river port and is situated at the mouth of the Buffalo River in the East Cape Province. The river port has a dry dock capable of handling ships of up to 200m and a maximum beam of 24.8m. The dock is equipped with four electric and one mobile crane.

At the port, there are 12 commercial berths plus a repair quay of 110m, a pilot jetty and fishing jetty next to the small Latimer’s Landing Waterfront. Six of the berths lie on the West Bank. The port has a total of 2,410m of quayside.

The multi-purpose terminal on the East Bank handles an increasing volume of containers and is geared for 90,000 TEUs a year – many for the motor industry. Ships own gear is required as the port lacks gantry cranes.

The port entrance is dredged up to 12m, the draught at the berths vary from -8.5m to -10.4m alongside. Passenger ships are accommodated at whichever berth is most suitable and available.

East London port has 11 commercial berths ranging up to 250 metres in length. Fresh water is available at all berths on request. Bunkering is available (fuel and gas oil) by road tankers. The Grain Elevator, with a storage capacity of 76,000 tonnes is the largest in South Africa. In the 1970s the elevator handled 3.8 million tonnes of exports and in 1994 a total of 2.1mt, during a time when the Durban facility was out of commission.

East London port handled a total of 330 ships during the calendar year  2015, with a gross tonnage of 11,475,890. Cargo handled in 2015 amounted to 2,945,922 tonnes, including containers.  Bulk cargo totalled 1,054,352t and breakbulk cargo 996,614t. Containers by weight amounted to 894,956t (66,293-TEU).

Imports amounted to 1,340,348t and exports were 710,618t, with nil recorded as transhipped (bulk and breakbulk excluding containers). The port handled 53,819 TEUs during 2011/12, of which 26,217 were imports and 27,602 exports. A majority of containers were for the local motor industry.

But,  the irony is the case in Nigeria as all the four river ports that are supposed to help decongest the nations seaports and help improve government revenues are abandoned and left in ruins. The ports if put into proper use are expected to open up the economies of the various States they were situated.The four river ports are located at Lokoja in Kogi State, Baro in Niger State, Onitsha in Anambra State and Oguta in Imo State.

For instance, the Baro river port in Niger state which is completed cannot function and receive cargo handling equipment because the road leading to the port is inaccessible for even a motorcycle. The federal government has awarded the Baro river port 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 but despite the huge amount expended on the project, it is yet to be put into proper use several years after completion.

The lack of completion Of the River Port has also deprived Nigerian youths job placement as over 2000 direct and indirect jobs are under threat. Since the completion, the contractor handling the installation of Cargo handling equipment said it had find it difficult to move cargo handling equipment to the port because of the bad road leading to the port.

The access road leading to the River Port from the Gegu express way in Kogi State is not motorable and needed urgent rehabilitation by the Federal Government if the project is to be of any economic value to the nation, the contractor handling said.

Speaking in an interview with LEADERSHIP,  managing director of First Index Nigeria Limited, the contractor handling the installation of the cargo handling equipment at the River Port, Mr. Opeyemi Olabanji, explained that they are going through serious challenges because of the deplorable condition of the access road.

He said they cannot move their cranes and other cargoes to the port, he further said that the cargo handling equipment are very heavy and the trucks carrying the equipment cannot pass through the bad road.

He however hoped that the Federal Government will see the need to urgently fix the road for the interest of the nation and for evacuation of the handling equipment to the river port.

Olabanji however urged the federal government to commence permanent solution to the dilapidated access road if it want the river port to be in proper use and contribute to the development of the country.

“I commended the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) for the palliative measures they are putting to make sure the equipment arrives at the River Port but emphasis must be made for a lasting solution to the deplorable condition of the road. Baro River Port which is considered as the flagship port of the Northern part of the country cannot function as it is now.”

However, a top management staff in NIWA had said that even though government had invested over N3.5bn in building and cargo handling equipment, the port still remained unused because of the bad state of the road. The source said, “So much funds have been invested in the Baro River Port project running into over N3.5billion Naira. It is embarrassing that the port still remains unused, simply because the major road leading to the port is impassable.