Chief Nathaniel Okechukwu, the Chief Executive Officer of NTERBUO Construction Company apparently understood the enormity of the task given to his firm when he was awarded the contract for the construction of the Onitsha River Port about eight years ago.
he project, which was aimed at improving water transportation in the Nigeria’s water ways and to reduce the load on the major ports in the country, was awarded before the advent of President Muhammadu Buhari administration but could not take off as expected due to alleged bottle necks hence defeating the aim for which it was planned. It would be recalled that the regime of Goodluck Jonathan had carried out a facility tour of the project and had promised to utilize the facility which never came to pass.
But on inception the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Chief George Mughalu when he visited the River Port told reporters that his tenure would witness maximum use of the countries water ways from Lokoja to Bayelsa State adding that the several millions of naira lost as revenue would be checkmated. He further announced that he has set machine in motion and set up relevant committees towards actualizing the set objectives
In what appears to be a ray of hope for the country’s waterways the first vessel transporting cargo berthed the Onitsha River Port last week from Oneh Port in Rivers State. This was sequel to the commissioning of the River Port by the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of NIWA, Chief George Mughalu. According to Moghalu, while commissioning the port: “With the functioning of Onitsha Port, the economic gateway of Anambra and the South East economy have been opened.”
He said that it will reduce unnecessary and avoidable expenses for transporting containers from Lagos ports and Port Harcourt Port to the South-East. Dr Moghalu, disclosed this in NIWA office, Onitsha during the commisioning of Onitsha Port.
“It is obvious that my aim and commitment to bringing functions to Onitsha Port is no longer a mirage and elusive as many thought. My good intentions as an Anambraborn MD of NIWA are to make the port operational in order to boost economic activities in Anambra State and South East, create jobs and wealth, improve ease of doing business, give South East sense of belonging, reduce bottles necks in clearing goods and save monies wasted in transporting containers from different ports to the Southeast has been achieved and it is recorded in history today that containers are arriving in batches to this port after 42 years.”
Moghalu also declared that making Nigeria’s waterways navigable is key to reducing the pressure on our roads as most of the containers can be moved to their destinations safely by water. “If our waterways are navigable and open, we can go by water, not by road. It is this aspect that drew my attention to the fact that the pressure we have on our roads today can very well be avoided.
For example, if 1,000 containers are coming from Apapa Port and if half or even 70 per cent is going to end in the Southeast – Onitsha, Aba, or what have you — what that means is that 500 or 700 trailers will be on the road,” he said. It has taken both economic and political will to fully make the Onitsha River Port functional in order to tap from its huge economic benefits to businesses located in the commercial cities of Onitsha, Nnewi and Aba, and save the economy the burdened cost of transporting goods from Lagos to Eastern Nigeria.
This will not only save businesses money that is put into cargo clearance per container, as haulage cost of transporting cleared consignment from Lagos ports to the states in the East, but will also help to decongest the already stretched Lagos ports.
“The activities in Onitsha Port will create massive employment for the youths and also add values to the state’s economy. When it is developed and opened, lots of ships will be navigating the Onitsha-Lokoja axis, some unemployed youths who may be engaged in negative activities like kidnapping will be engaged,” he said “The revamping of Onitsha riverport is one outstanding project yearning for attention for many years now.
The politics that started in 1980 has ended. This project is going to engage the unemployed youths in Anambra State and South East. The opportunities that are attached to this project is immeasurable. “Since the reviving of the port , the development has received commendations from the business class and among captains of industries as well as the political class,” he said.
Anambra State Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Basil Ejidike said that the party has been vindicated against the belief in some quarters that the party is anti South East. “We are still celebrating the Second Niger Bridge and now the Onitsha River Port has come on stream. It has gone to appreciate the fact that the South East and South South plays very important role in the macro and micro economic development of the country,” he said.
The Chairman, Nnewi Chamber of Commerce Mines and Agriculture, Chief Humphrey Ngonadi noted that: “Business men and women have suffered since the creation f Nigeria and this is as a result of the nature of our federal highways occasioned by the deplorable state of our roads. When those heavy duty trucks fall people’s goods are destroyed and several millions of naira are lost in the accident.
“This has affected both importers and other business men and women in Igbo land and with this development we can be rest assured that our business is safe and well protected. “We, however, appeal to our business community to take advantage of this development and protect their goods and also patronize the port.
“We also urge the Federal Government to also establish dry ports in the industrial and commercial areas of the South East,” he said. Also speaking the President of Nnewi Importers’ Association, Mr Austin Jideofor noted that the time has been long over due adding that the pains of Importers have been reduced drastically.
“We congratulate our brother, Chief George Mughalu for this mile stone while urging him to make bold his promise that vessels would start bringing containers from the western ports,” he said. The member representing Anambra East and West Federal Constituency, Chief Chinedu Obidigwe told reporters that the development would rub off positively on his constituency which shares boundaries with the River Niger.
“The people of Anambra East and West Federal Constituency are farmers and infact we are one of the food baskets of the South East geopolitical zone and with what we have on ground at the River Port the transportation and marketing of agricultural produce has become a lot easier. “That lends credence to my call for the dredging of Omabala River which would also serve as a buffer for the Niger River in the event of increase in traffic at the River Port in Onitsha.
“It would also creat job opportunities for our youths who have been involved in rural Urban migration since they now have facilities and enabling environment to do business,” he said.
It is being posited that should both state governments of the South East and the business community can buy into this development through patronage and providing the necessary basic infrastructure to aide the Onitsha River Port and provide a multiplayer effect on the economy of the area.