YUSUF BABALOLA examines how the commissioning of Baro River Port by President Muhammadu Buhari will help create jobs, give hope to the remaining river ports and strengthen economy of the North.
In the days of the colonial masters, they built two river ports, Baro and Lokoja, for ease of movement of raw materials and movement from one part of the country to another.
The two river ports were built to help stimulate their own country’s economy and make movement of raw materials from Nigeria to the sea for exportation to their own country easy.
The colonial masters, who were resident in Lokoja and many other people at the time, could travel by water to Makurdi, Baro and as far as Adamawa from Lokoja.
Large ships were also used to export cotton and kernel from Lokoja to Europe but the prodigal stature that has now become the lot of the country had also affected developmental initiatives that could have lifted the city to global reckoning immediately the colonial masters left.
The river ports were abandoned and left to ruin by successive governments. From the military to civilian governments, little or nothing was done to rehabilitate or put to use, the once thriving river ports, rather focus and attention were paid solely to the seaports.
Nigeria, unlike other developed countries that have viable river ports, was the least developed and already in a sorry state except for Baro that was recently commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari.
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 activity 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 its major export while wheat, raw cotton, machinery, iron & steel are the major import.
While, Nigerian river ports are abandoned, the Kolkata river port generates $170million annually for the Indian government.
Also, the riverine port in South Africa, known as the port of East London, 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 a total of 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 – mainly 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 (mt) 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 break bulk 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 transshipped (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.
However, seeing the enormous potentials of the river ports, the Nigerian federal government intervened, injecting huge amounts of money to revive the river ports.
The intervention was not felt until the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari ensured the completion, installation of cargo handling equipment, rehabilitation of dilapidated road leading to the port before commissioning the project last week.
Baro river port, which is the first river port in Northern Nigeria, came to life again after so many years of abandonment, however, giving hope for the remaining abandoned river ports (Onitsha, Oguta and Lokoja).
Speaking at the commissioning of the project, the president said that the N6 billion Baro River Port would help decongest the Apapa, Tin-Can and other ports across the country.
This was even as he said the completion and inauguration of the River Port would enhance intermodal transportation within the country and decongest trucks on the nation’s road.
The president further stated that the Baro River Port would also help decongest other similar ports in the country
He said, “The port will enhance intermodal transportation connectivity in the country and I promise that my administration will do more if re-elected into office during the forthcoming elections, especially the rehabilitation of roads leading to Baro River Port and its environs.
The president stated further, “the port will reduce pressure of big trucks off our roads and create huge employment opportunities for Nigerians. The Baro River Port will also help decongest other similar ports in the country.”
Also speaking, the minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, commended Mr President for directing them to complete all the abandoned projects in the past of which Baro River Port is one of them.
In his welcome remark, the managing director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Senator Olorunnlmbe Mamora, thanked Mr President for personally commissioning the Baro River Port Complex and said the port was the first colonial port in the country and that he is happy that the new port was completed under this present administration.
He said the port is a veritable outlet to ensure transportation of goods, services and passengers across the country.
The port will also help in the creation of intermodal transportation system across the country. He added that the port would facilitate social-cultural relationships, commerce, trade and Agricultural development.
Now that the Baro River Port has been completed and commissioned by President Buhari, stakeholders portend that it will create over two million jobs for the teeming youths and also help with the decongestion of Lagos ports.
Maritime stakeholders, who expressed their thoughts, said though Northern Nigeria is land-locked with no single sea port, however, actualisation of Baro port will free transportation hiccups.
The chairman, House Committee on Maritime Education, Safety and Administration, Hon Umar Bago, expressed optimism that the Baro Inland Water Port in Niger State would create jobs for the teeming youths in the region.
“If Baro inland water port is completed, it will create over 2 million jobs for the teeming youths,’’ Bago said.
The chairman also said that the port would help with decongestion of Lagos ports.
“Northern Nigeria is land-locked with no single seaport, however, if Baro port is actualised, transportation hiccups will be drastically reduced.
“Revenue will increase and millions of dollars in foreign exchange will also be saved. Even the agricultural revolution will get a massive boost.’’
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