*AFREXIM bank funded project with $350,000
*Chart linked Lokoja in Kogi to Burutu in Delta
*81 obstructions, rocks discovered during chart
Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja
Stakeholders in the maritime sector have unveiled the much awaited “Navigational Charts of Lower Niger River”, a joint hydrographic survey campaign by NEXIM Bank in partnership with the Nigerian Navy, Sealink Consortium and National Inland Waterways Authority ((NIWA).
The project is aimed at boosting trade, broadening the national export potentials, enhancing bulk export capabilities as well as ensuring Nigeria’s effective intra- African trade participation.
The ceremony witnessed the attendance of major stakeholders including Nigerian Navy, Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Inland Waterways (NIWA), Afrexim bank, NEXIM bank, Sealink Consortium among others.
Speaking at the ceremony, Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, said the joint hydrographic survey campaign by NEXIM Bank in partnership with the Nigerian Navy, Sealink Consortium and National Inland Waterways Authority, was flagged-off on November 24, 2021.
He said phases one and two of the project, which extends from Lokoja in Kogi State to Burutu in Delta State, was completed in line with international standard and products of the painstaking survey.
“Undoubtedly, unveiling these charts is crucial towards exploitation of the vast strategic reserve of mineral resources along the Lower Niger Basin with great prospects for Nigerian’s economic diversification.
“This is expected to boost tourism potentials, create more job opportunities and increase economic viability. It would also reduce pressure on road infrastructure, as bulk cargos would be transported through the channel”, he said.
“Furthermore, successful opening of this River Channel for navigation will accelerate activation of concessioned inland ports and export processing zones for handling bulk cargoes from coastal areas and export of solid minerals as well as agricultural produce. “Thus, the ceremony is another testimony to the resolve of the federal government towards evolving comprehensive mechanisms to emplace sustainable infrastructure through Public Private Partnership collaborations”, he said.
He noted that although the project was a preliminary step towards opening the Lower River Niger.
“I would like to assure this audience that the Nigerian Navy is willing to sustain partnership with NEXIM Bank, Sealink Consortium and the National Inland Waterways Authority including other critical stakeholders under this collaborative initiative to complete development of the river channel towards creating vibrant maritime activities along the Lower River Niger basin”, he said.
In his remarks, the Managing Director of Afreximbank, Prof Benedict Uramah, who was represented by Mr Remmy Nwachukwu, said “Afrexim bank is proud to have played a significant part in making the Charting possible. We provided a grant of USD350,000 for this exercise because of the critical role we know that navigability of the river Niger will play in the country’s trade facilitation and indeed overall developmental aspirations.
“Our financing has not only been in support of trade but also trade enabling infrastructure such as ports, railways, airports and airplanes as well as power and telecommunications facilities. In Nigeria, Afreximbank has made cumulative disbursements of up to USD36 billion since inception with around USD4 billion in current exposure”, he said.
In his speech, the Managing Director of NIWA, George Moghalu, said the “unveiling of the navigational charts of the Lower River Niger from Lokoja in Kogi State to Burutu in Delta State, covered a total distance of 594KM (321 Nautical Miles) with a total survey area of 1719.8 Square Kilometers.
“These charts are products of the Joint hydrographic survey of the Lower River Niger carried out by the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Office and the National Inland Waterways Authority, (NIWA). This project was promoted by the Sealink Promotional Company Limited with funding from the NEXIM Bank and the African Export-Import Bank”, he said.
Giving further details on the project, the Hydrographer of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral CE Okafor, disclosed that in l the course of charting the route, the crew discovered 81 underwater features that may be dangerous for navigation including four wrecks, 16 underwater obstructions, 16 rocks and called for dredging canalisation and installation of appropriate aids for navigation.