NIWA Extends Democracy Dividends to Coastal Areas
The Director-General of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority, George Moghalu, talks about the agency’s activities including benefits enjoyed by the citizens in the hinterland
what’s the major challenge that you’re facing in your efforts to transform the water transportation sector in Nigeria?
I will disappoint you by telling you that funding is not the major challenge because you can get all the funding you want in the world and if you don’t know what to do with it, it becomes wasted. The major challenge I met, when I came in was that NIWA was under-reported. People don’t know what NIWA stands for. The next issue was staff morale. Getting everybody to understand my vision; getting my management to understand where I’m coming from.
So for me, addressing the issue of staff morale, and us coming together to understand where we want to take NIWA to. We also had to develop a plan, which we anchored on massive training. We lay so much emphasis on training. Adopting the train the trainers program.
Having said that, you can now talk about funding. No nation, Nigeria is not an exception, has the resources to solve all it required to solve all its problems. Therefore, we also must appreciate the fact that the resources available to government is not as robust as it used to be. Time was in this country when oil was selling for $120, $130.
By the time his administration came into being, oil dropped to about $25/$30 a barrel. So you must take that into consideration.
What that translates to is that as the resources available to government is dropping, you must reflect on the agencies that are on the government.
So we are also part of those agencies of government. But as the resources improve, certainly NIWA will also get more funds to be able to address all what it needs to do. I know that in the past four/five years, our IGR has been on the constant increase. And we have been contributing, we have been regular in paying into our consolidated revenue fund. That’s why I talked about awareness; as you’re getting people to know about you, getting them to know their responsibility towards your organisation, revenue grows. By the time you let them know that there are laws to be obeyed, there are fees to be paid for the agency to grow.
What are you doing to make NIWA a self sufficient agency, fund wise?
We are doing quite a lot. Look at our revenue profile, it shows a gradual increase from what used to be to what it is now.
We have not come down even during the COVID period, we still managed to maintain an upward trajectory and we intend to sustain that.
And don’t forget, like for example now, we have concessioned Onitsha River Port. Our revenue from that source will increase. By the time we concession Baro; by the time we conclude with Oguta, we conclude with Lokoja and by the time we increase the use of the waterways because as we are increasingly opening up the channel, the needs will increase.
Like I said, by the time we move cargo regularly the way we want to move them between Onitsha and Lagos. The truth is that over 60 to 65% of containerized cargo that arrive Lagos today end in Onitsha and Aba.
And all these cargoes, let’s take an hypothesis, let’s say it’s five million containers that arrive and is destined for South East. What that translates to is 10 million trailers being on our roads. Five million carrying the container down, five million carrying the containers back.
And the roads are not designed to carry those pressures. There’s no way our infrastructure will survive it.
So by the time we remove this pressure from our roads, and move into the water, where it is additional revenue for us, because those containers now move by water, certainly, we’re going to get more money. So we are concerned about it. We are working towards it. And that’s why we’re laying so much emphasis on it.
What are you doing to to control the perennial flooding in the country?
Yes, it’s a major challenge but as an organization, what do we do? We monitor river flow on a regular basis. And we report to communities along the banks; we have a department that deals with it.
Our research and planning department deals with this on a regular basis monitoring river flow, monitoring water flow so that we don’t have our people taken unaware. And another way we address this issue is by increasing our maintenance dredging, because flooding usually takes place when the water route is silted.
So the only way you can address that is to make sure you dredge open the channel and the water will follow that channel. So we continue to do the maintenance dredging. One thing we must understand is that capital dredging is one expensive business and it’s not something you do everyday.
On the issue of shore protection You can’t build shore protection across all the river banks in Nigeria.
That means you’re talking about 20,000 kilometres because we have over 10,000 kilometers of waterways, if you shall protect this side you must protect the other side and that is practically impossible. So, what we do is where there is a priority need, we try and protect; where banks are collapsing, we try and protect; where it’s constantly in use, we try and protect, especially when it touches the lives of our jetties of bridges and what have you.
How are you going to address the challenge of human errors and dregs that constantly cause boat mishaps in the country?
Defaulters are being prosecuted in line with the national transport policy because we have identified that fact.
If for example, somebody refuses to use the registered jetties and goes to a shoreline, parks his boat, convinces people to enter the boat without wearing life jacket; without being properly kitted, and enters the waterway and runs into trouble, it is human error.
If the captain of the vessel is not properly trained, it’s human error and each of these infractions have their penalties and we are prosecuting them.
There are punishments and we cannot relax because we are talking about people’s lives.That is why jetties are registered; we don’t just build a jetty and we don’t compromise standards.
Concerning the wreck, it is not a one off thing, vessels can get spoilt. Before you go and remove a wreck, you must advertise it. You must use software to identify the location, get the coordinates, publish it in the newspaper, get the police to know before you can now go and remove the wreck. So, once we continue this process, either we use consultants or we go directly as an organization that has that responsibility among others and they remove the wreaks.
What’s the level of works going on in Oguta River Parks?
If you had gone to Oguta before today, there was no fence. But as we speak now, Oguta Port is fenced. Oguta Port was at 58-60 percent completion and was abandoned for this period of time.
It didn’t appear on the national budget until this government came in to being and they made provision and that is when we’re able to fence it.
This year again, work is still ongoing. We’re trying to segment the port to deal with the issues individually and be able to complete it on time,. The dredging you heard, I don’t know anything about it.
You said your revenue has been on the upswing. How much revenue are you currently generating?
For the cost of work done within the country, that’s a tall order for me. But I will make available our budgetary provision and the entire projects we are doing and the cost implication to you and they are always in the public domain.
If you open our website, you will see the projects that is ongoing, you will see their values there.
These are things that are not hidden and it’s readily available I will also make available to you the revenue profile; how much we’ve been able to generate within the last five years, how we’ve been going on upward trajectory and exactly how much we have been paying back to the consolidated revenue fund.
Can you give timelines on when operations in Baro Port and others will begin operation?
Government is concerned about Baro because when we identified a challenge in Baro, we made it available to our ministry.
But apart from the fact that federal government is doing a road now for Baro Port, the contract has been signed also to extend the rail corridor to Baro So by the time the road is complete the rail is complete, you have a multimodal access to the Port and that will be to a very great extent, an assistance.
Like I did say, when I was talking about charting and opening up our channels, we have chatted between Baro and Lokoja and will very soon start our maintenance dredging on that route and open it up and maintain it.
With that, vessels can now go to Baro to discharge their cargoes, because we must understand that if the roads are not opened, it may be difficult for cargoes to move to Baro, because by the time the cargoes arrive Baro by water, what happens from Baro into the hinterlands?
So there must be an assess for them to be able to move the cargoes from Baro Port.
What is your relationship with other law enforcement agencies in controlling the discharge of waste into the river to stop flooding?
On waste management, I will also throw it back to the media to help us because we need to get our people to understand how to manage our waste.
It’s one problem because year in, year out NIWA spends money moving out floating debris on our waterways.
Most of these floating debris are rubber, bottled water, sachets, we keep throwing them and they all end in the waterways.
So, if we can be able to change it and that’s why we have jingles educating people on how to manage their wastes.
We’re also engaging state governments, because all our waterways pass through states.
So they also can be part of the refuse management by getting their people to discharge them properly.
Once we’re able to do that, it will reduce the investment, the expenditure, we expend trying to manage these wastes on our waterways.