The dredging of lower River Niger with the main objective of achieving an all year round navigation of the dredged channels from Warri in Delta State to Baro in Niger State, shows the Federal Government’s commitment in improving inland water transportation in the country.
Historically, the idea of dredging the lower River Niger was mooted in the late 1950’s when the colonial administration was busy with the preparation of the country’s independence and as such could not take any concrete step in that direction. Since independence, successive administrations had only paid lip service to this worthwhile project until late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua emerged on the scene as Nigeria’s President, took the bull by the horn and approved contract for the dredging, a project his successor-in-office, President Goodluck Jonathan, in the patriotic spirit of policy stability has intensified as part of his transformation agenda in the transport sector.
The first score card is that the present administration has been able to undertake this laudable project previous administrations were unable to do in Nigeria’s post-independence over 50 years of existence. Therefore, the initiators, managers and partakers of this development project could be tagged as record breakers and history makers.
Hitherto, the waterways that are currently dredged had served as strong and viable route of water transportation in the country. During the colonial times, mails were sent to Onitsha from Lokoja through River Niger waterways by the colonial authorities; the Royal Niger Company and its French counterparts used the Rivers Niger and Benue as routes to move raw materials from the hinterland and exports from Northern Cameroun for industries in Europe and Northern America.
It was in realisation of the advantages of in-land water transportation that the Federal Government signed a N34.8billion contract for the dredging of lower River Niger on 1st December, 2008 which was later reviewed upwards when the Federal Executive Council on November 2, 2011 approved additional N8.5billion due to confirmed fluctuations in the prices of labour, diesel etc and constant siltation of the River channels thereby putting the entire project cost at N43.3billion. The project was inaugurated on September 10, 2009; the entire project has a three-year completion plan, which means that the dredging and maintenance works are supposed to be completed in 2012.
The dredging of lower River Niger contract from Warri in Delta State to Baro in Niger State, which covers an estimated 572km in eight states namely; Kogi, Niger, Edo, Delta, Anambra, Imo, Rivers and Bayelsa is divided into five lots with several bifurcations -capital dredging works, maintenance dredging works, River training works (installation of navigational aids) and community development works.
The good and cheering news from this project is that the dredging project has been successfully completed in June 2011 and maintenance dredging started immediately and as at today a reasonable portion of the maintenance dredging has being completed. In addition, navigational aids have been installed in the dredged channels while BUOYS to signify safety and sensitive zones and to mark the dredged channels have been installed and laid in all the 5 Lots of the project.
The positive result of this successful dredging is that all the routes from Baro in Niger State to Warri in Delta State is now open and accessible for vessels to move products and goods through these dredged channels to different parts of the country. Two strong testimonies of this statement can be advanced. In August 2011, NINON, a Marine Transport Company moved 300 tonnes of tiles equivalent to 15-20 trailer loads of tiles from Lokoja through the dredged lower River Niger channels to Onitsha. That was the first of its kind in Nigeria for over three decades. Not long ago, the contractor handling Lot 5 of the project from the Jamata to Baro, William Lloyds Tech Company, moved its big vessels from Port Harcourt to Baro, which it was unable to do prior to the dredging.
With the successful dredging of the lower River Niger, windows of numerous investment opportunities are now available on the nations waterways. As Nigerian Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA), intensifies efforts in marketing these opportunities to investors in Nigeria and abroad, it will be necessary for them to patronise this laudable project to avoid the siltation of the dredged channels where sands fill and block the channels if they are not used. The Managing Director of NIWA, Aminu Yar’Adua, has assured that many investors have indicated interests to patronise the dredged channels.
However, the recent flooding in some part of the federation had affected the dredged channels which shifted positions, deepened the river above the dredged channels and caused siltation in the channels. Nevertheless, NIWA is undertaking a reconfirmation survey to address the effects of the flooding on the dredged channels.
Source: tribune, November 26, 2012