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Moghalu makes water transportation priority at NIWA

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NATIONAL Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) remains a critical factor in government’s drive to achieve an efficient water transport system in the country.

With the congestion on the roads, particularly Lagos, the inland waterways remain veritable means of movement from one point to the other.

  This is exactly the case for many Lagosians who prefer to use ferries or boats instead of using buses. For buses from Lagos Island to Apapa Wharf, it has always been a bad business everyday because of the presence of ferries at the Marina jetty to Apapa.

 Once boarded, it takes less than 10 minutes to arrive the Wharf from where one finds his or her way to different destinations. There are also ferries from Mile 2 jetty to Lagos Island.

As early as 6am, many workers, traders and others line up to catch the next ferry to destinations of choice. This is also the trend for many people living in Ikorodu and doing business in Lagos Island or Apapa. Some of the ferries are provided by NIWA, the Lagos State Government and private operators.

  However, the concern being raised by stakeholders is the poor standard of some of the boats. The need to meet required standard had been one thing both NIWA and the Lagos State Government have been trying to address for a long time now.

While some of the ferry operators try to meet the required standard by providing live jackets, some of them, particularly the smaller operators owned by private operators do not.

With an estimated number of two million people who use water transportation in Lagos alone according to Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), the need for strengthening of safety regulations cannot be overemphasized.

   In Lagos for instance, the traffic gridlock on many roads is a big encouragement for many to patronise boats provided they feel safe with the enforcement of regulations. The former Managing Director of NIWA, Senator Olorunibe Mamora had in 2018, narrowly escaped death during an inspection tour.

A boat carrying log wood had hit his boat in what became a close shave with death. The boat was hit leading to water tricking in.

The NIWA team, led by the MD had to change the boat for safety reasons. The incident was enough to give NIWA team an idea of further safety measures as the boat carrying the wood was floating under water.

In other incidents, many passengers had lost their lives in Northern part of the country due to use of rickety boats which capsized on the waters. Many of such boats abound in many parts of the country.

   Industry watchers hold the view that many Nigerians would be ready to invest in water transportation once the right environment is provided.

It is expected that for many to patronise the sector, issues of safety and security must be taken care of to avoid incidents of frequent boat mishap that have sent many to untimely grave.

 The sector has been awash with so many quacks operating without following laid down regulations. This is one of the reasons so many people have lost their lives in boat mishap. In apparent

response to this development, NIWA is said to be moving to cover all riverine areas in the country operating water transportation to enforce safety measures. NIWA should also liaise with relevant security agencies to provide adequate security for both passengers and operators to avoid incidence of kidnap and other forms of attacks by hoodlums.

The agency should, as a matter of public view, be able to regulate the fares to be paid by passengers using boats. River port

  Industry stakeholders are also full of expectations that NIWA should do everything to revive the river ports because of their economic benefits to the country. Most of the River ports, including that of Onitsha have remained moribund for years.

  The Managing Director of NIWA, Chief George Muoghalu who was appointed last year had in December said that he would take the agency to high heights and better than he met it. Muoghalu had during an end of year get-together called on the staff to be pragmatic and be part of his new vision to transform the agency for the interest of the nation.

  At a stakeholders meeting in Lagos recently, Moghalu said every measure was being put in place to make water transportation the preferred choice of many Nigerians in terms of movement of persons and goods to any part of the country.

  He also added that the authority wants a situation in which bulk cargoes and persons in Lagos use inland transport to reduce pressure on the roads and check gridlock in Apapa area.

   He also assured that every effort is being made to compel operators of boats to obey safety regulations.

  He said, “We have observed with deep concern the issue of increasing boat accidents on our waterways. It has been observed that such accidents happen mostly at night or early in the morning. We have instructed our area offices to henceforth start arresting substandard ferry operators. No more rickety ferries on our waterways. The Marine Police has also been alerted.

  “Henceforth, any ferry operating without navigational equipment would be arrested. The reason we are automating our registration and licensing procedures is to ensure that a boat operator does not violate the law for instance in Lagos and run to Port Harcourt, the operator would be easily apprehended.

In fact we are designing a licensing sticker that would be pasted on all duly licensed and registered boats for easy identification and once you are registered anywhere in Nigeria, you can operate in any part of the country”.

   During the meeting, Moghalu disclosed that processes for the concession of Onitsha and Baro River Ports were on-going, adding that no preferred bidder has emerged.

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