A portion of Lower River Niger stretching Ajaokuta- Onitsha is to gulp another fund from NIWA through direct maintenance.
The authority, last week, mobilised its dredgers to carry out maintenance dredging of the 152-kilometre waterways.
Justification The new project is to provide a safe and alternative means of transporting goods through the river from one part of the country to another and to move cargoes coming to and departing Nigeria through the seaports.
Already, silts have reduced the river’s retention capacity, thereby limiting the possibilities of transportation.
It was also learnt that the dredging of the river would also enhance fishing, irrigation, smooth navigation of badges and vessels.
It was gathered that the silt build-up has been limiting the amount of electricity generated from Kainji dam.
Former Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Capt. Adamu Biu, had said at the world maritime day in Lagos last year that there were about 150 million tons of silt on the river bed.
He noted that the river was drying up gradually.
However, the Managing Director of Equitorial Maritime Consult, Mr. Olatunde Jayeola, said that the dredging of the river was another conduit pipe to siphon money by government officials.
Jayeola noted that there was no distinction between capital and maintenance dredging. He stressed the need to carry out the audit of the work done when the river was first dredged four years ago.
The managing director explained that some parts of the dredged river were dotted with sand bar and rocks.
“These are visible in Onitsha axis and other spots,” he noted.
However, he said that the direct dredging was a good idea due to lack of funds to award contract.
According to him, if the river was dredged without opening up the blocked tributaries, the excess water that comes in, probably as a backflow from the Atlantic, would drop sand into the dredged areas.
This would continue to gulp money unnecessarily, he stressed.
The problem The silts are being deposited by flood every year, thereby limiting navigation of vessels and barges.
He noted that the problem with the river was that the silt would come back within a year because of flood.
However, Managing Director of the Authority, Boss Mustapha, who said that the maintenance dredging would be carried out between Ajaokuta and Onitsha, explained that NIWA had improved on the technical knowhow, among other things.
He said: “The exercise will also address bottlenecks around Okenne border. We will continue with this exercise gradually and across other states in Nigeria.
The result of our efforts is why we have invited the minister.”
Mustapha noted that a dredging committee that will carry out regular maintenance of the dredged channel had been inaugurated. He gave assurance that the maintenance would be extended to other channels from time to time.
Also, Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who flagged off the dredging last week, at Ajaokuta in Kogi State, explained that the action of NIWA would increase the value of water fronts and generate economic activities along the river banks as well as the riverine communities.
The minister added that the dredging of the river would complement activities at the Lokoja River Port and create multiple benefits.