By Shola Oyeyipo in Abuja
The continued inability of Nigeria to dredge its inland waterways has been blamed on some powerful interests opposed to the project.
Making the allegation Thursday, when he received the new Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Senator Adeleke Olurunnimbe Mamora, in his office, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, said a cartel with vested interest had been sabotaging the dredging of River Niger.
Maintaining that failure of successive administrations to implement the national transport master plan that would have ensured the dredging was deliberate, Dogara hinted that in the last three years, he had taken up the issue of implementation of the national transport master plan at different times and at the highest levels with different people but his efforts hit a brick wall.
He said he was told at a point that the Chinese had handed down a negative verdict on the project saying it was not feasible and useless.
Referring to how the national transport master plan was conceived by the Olusegun Obasanjo administration, Dogara said: “I was part of the development of the national transportation master plan, I don’t know what has happened to that. How I wished we implemented that plan, by now we would have gone very far because the national transportation master plan vision is a seamless integration of a multi modal transportation into one hub, and I think at that time Baro in Niger State had been identified as the center for the hub, it is serviced by a railway that is connected to Minna and all you need to do is to construct a road and airport that will ensure connectivity and you will have access to the Atlantic Ocean through the River Niger, so everything was supposed to be put together in one place.
“I am aware that some people in the sector are of the opinion that we do not need the inland waterways transportation in this country. I have had discussions with some of them. Like I said I have been an advocate of this for long, and they said that the Chinese said it is useless, even if we develop it. But that’s the irony, if you look at other countries who do not even have this potential for inland waterways transportation, they have even done man-made inland waterways and even lakes, they have created artificial ones. While in this country, having been blessed with this wonderful resources by Mother Nature, by God, we tend to look the other way and believe they will not serve any useful purpose.
“There are some people within the sector who do not want some of these initiatives to see the light of the day. But because I’ve converted my self so if they are fighting against you, they are fighting against me, and it would be very difficult for them to succeed because of the goodwill that propels us,” the Speaker further assured the NIWA delegation.”
Talking about the benefits derivable from the inland waterways transportation, he said, “imagine the millions of metric tonnes of goods that would be lifted off our highways and put on ships that would ply these inland waterways. That would mean our roads can last 50 years as it is in other climes. That would also translate into safety on our highways as well.”
Mamora, who praised Dogara’s leadership of the House of Representatives, solicited his support and that of the House of Representatives, saying the legislature provides the ways and means for good governance and the passage of the NIWA amendment bill.