President Muhammadu Buhari has approved $186million to combat and stem the cycle of criminalities on the Nigerian waters.
The Federal Government has also approved N100m for the dredging of the River Niger.
The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi made the disclosure on Thursday, at a-Day National Conference on Fast-Tracking Port Reforms organised by the Federal Ministry of Transportation in collaboration with The Nation Newspapers and Epsilon Limited in Lagos.
Addressing over 800 participants at the forum, Amaechi said that $186m has been approved by President Buhari for the fight against piracy and other criminalities on the waterways.
Part of the money, the Minister said, would be used to buy three helicopters and three aircrafts among others.
His words: “Mr. President has approved $186million to fight piracy in our waters. The funds will be used to buy three helicopters, three aircrafts, 12 vessels stationed in the water. In the next 3 months, all of them would 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.”
On the dredging of the River Niger, Amaechi said that N100m has been budgeted for the dredging of the project against the N34b paid by the former administration of President Goodluck Jonathan for the same project.
“When the River Niger was first approved for dredging by the previous administration, it was approved for N47billion and N34billion 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 N100m. When we flagged it off recently, did you see us dancing? Was there a party? I just went to see the Governor and told him that the project will start today and will be finished in one month.
“The Governor said he will accompany me, and I said ok. So, I asked the Governor to flag it off since its located in his State.
“People are wondering how on earth we are going to dredge the River Niger for N100m when the previous government awarded same contracts for N47billion. But we are going to dredge the River Niger 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 MD told me the agency has dredgers, but it’s 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 coat.
“I told the NIWA MD 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 N100m,” Amaechi said.
In her speech, the Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) Ms Hadiza Bala Usman said are the gateways to international trade and regarded as major accelerators of local economic development.
“According to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), the Netherlands has been able to sustain a relatively high economic growth rate because of the Port of Rotterdam, in spite of the intensely competitive environment in Europe. The success of Singapore is equally attributed to the Port of Singapore which has developed a transport logistic centre and has successfully been able to attract foreign investment.
“It is thereby acknowledged that the maritime sector, an essential component of the transportation system is crucial for wealth creation.
“However, a port becomes an active wheel of an economy only if it is run efficiently. One of the key areas of efficiency that our ports require is the national single window .I am pleased to announce that the Authority and the Nigerian Customs service have concluded the operational model for establishing the National single window and will in the next few months commence with the public tender process of selecting the vendors that will deploy the required information technology infrastructure.
“Presently, the function of a port is not only limited to the traditional activities but has expanded to a logistical platform. Ports not only perform the basic operations (embarking, disembarking and transferring of passengers and crew, loading, unloading and transshipment of cargo to and from the vessels, storage and warehousing of merchandise on land and stevedoring to and from vessels), they provide inland access and intermodal connections as well as complementary services to shipping carriers,” She said.
Given the abundant mineral and agricultural resources available in most regions of Nigeria and the desire of the Federal Government to diversify the economy, Ms Usman said there was need to explore opportunities to boost economic development.
The Federal Government under President Mohammadu Buhari, she said, has identified agriculture and Solid Minerals as upbeat and that the maritime Industry will play a major role in the movement of the produce and minerals to international market.
“In February this year, all terminal operators and shipping companies were mandated by the Nigerian Ports Authority to set up fast-track desks for export of solid minerals and agricultural produce. Process of review of associated existing procedures and protocols has been commenced to ensure efficiency and intended results are achieved.
For the Nigerian ports to play this key role in the economy an efficient rail system will be needed in moving agricultural produce and solid Mineral from the locations of production that are usually in the hinterlands to the seaports for export. The Federal Ministry of Transportation has embarked on a $2 billion concession rail project to be handled by General Electric which will provide the needed intermodal support. It will cover about 3,500km (2,200 miles) of existing narrow gauge lines from the south western commercial capital, Lagos to Kano in the north and south Eastern oil hub, Port Harcourt, to Maiduguri in the North-East.
“We are already recording increase in export of agricultural produce. According to the National Bureau of Statistics, in its Trade Intensity Index Report for the Q3, 2016, export of frozen shrimps and prawns for the period July to September were worth over N5billion; Sesame seed export was worth over N4.8billion in the same period; income from cashew export exceeded N2billion; Soya beans yielded over N4billion; Ginger contributed over US$30million
Developing the ports is very crucial for realising the lofty but achievable development objectives of the Federal Government,” she said.
In his speech, the Managing Director and Editor -in-Chief of The Nation Newspaper Mr Victor Ifijeh thanked Amaechi for acceding to the request to collaborate with the paper on the port reform summit.
“This clearly attests to his willingness to make himself available for all initiatives that can move the maritime sector or ward and help fast-track the Nigerian economy.
“We all know the problems of the Nigerian sea ports, they have been well documented. They have also been the subject of various talks. Nevertheless, until the problems are adequately addressed, the need for more engagements like we are having now cannot be over emphasized.”
For the Federal Government’s plans for the sector to succeed, the Editor-in-Chief said the port agencies need to integrate their plans and carry along not only the stakeholders but the Nigerian public.
He urged the forum to create a peer-facilitated platform which can be used to make the agencies accountable to the goal jointly agreed.
“Considering the presence of maritime experts at this forum, we are confident that lasting solutions will be provided to the challenges bedevilling smooth ports operation,” he said.
Ifijeh thanked the Chief Executives of NPA, NIMASA, NIWA, the Nigerian Shippers Council, the participants and other stakeholders at the forum for their support.