The Chief Executive of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, said the experience gained from the concession of Onitsha River Port will speed up the process of concessioning other ports in the country. .
Moghalu told reporters during the formal handover of the port to the Abuja concessionaire that the authority had “learned on the job”.
While lamenting the time taken for the process to be completed, he said it was expected, being the first port to be conceded in the maritime sector.
“You can’t even quantify the challenges.
First, you’re doing something you’ve never done before.
“As we speak, the successful concession of the river port of Onitsha is the first in the maritime industry.
So the first time is definitely different.
“If by the time we do the second, third and fourth like we have on the pipeline, they certainly won’t take as long as the first because we’ve learned on the job.
“But if it’s about whether we’ve gained a lot of experience, we have.
That we have confidence in the process, we have it.
As to whether expectations are high, expectations are high and we are going to be guided.
“And when you do this stuff, you have to do it right, in line with international best practice.
“PPP agreements on concession processes are not a Nigerian thing, they have international standards that must be followed because you cannot change the rules because we are involved,” Moghalu said.
On ships, the NIWA boss said many ships were within the limit of available draft, adding that draft determines the type of ships expected in any port.
He said the focus, however, was on using the bagging process to move shipments from Apapa and Tincan to Onitsha and other inland ports.
“As we talk about this, we are already starting the process of concessioning the ports of Oguta, Lokoja and Baro River which have already been completed,” he added.
On security, Moghalu said arrangements are being made on the ground to ensure adequate security at the port.
“Allow me to record the support we have received from the Nigerian Navy.
Don’t forget that NIWA has its own police, there is also the maritime police, there is also our national police.
“But the truth I want to tell you now is that everyone is affected, just like the roads, we have safety issues.
“So we will meet the challenges as they arise, that I can assure you, but we are not afraid of it, because it is not insurmountable”, reaffirmed Moghalu.
He explained that the concession port had not been bequeathed to the concessionaires by the federal government, therefore there would be proper oversight to ensure that they were upholding their end of the bargain.
He said, “The federal government is going to make a lot of money.
We are expecting around four billion naira initially; the benefits that will be there are more tangible.
“Traders will be able to access their goods nearby, pressure on our roads will be reduced, congestion in Apapa and Tincan will be kept to a minimum.
“We know and statistics have shown that over 60% of containerized items that arrive in both Tincan and Apapa end up in the southeast.
“Simply put, if five million containers come into Lagos from the southeast for example, that translates to 10 million trailers on our route.
Five million to bring it in and five million to take back the containers.
“So if we can now move it by water, we’ve reduced that pressure on the road, we’ve saved our infrastructure.
So there are a lot of benefits to making this onitsha port work optimally.
For his part, the port concessionaire, Dr. George Nwangwu, expressed his optimism about the ability of his company (Universal Elysium Consortium) to meet its end of the bargain.
He said Nigeria is not an easy place to do business given the various challenges faced by business people.
He said they would, however, use their experience in PPPs and privatization to ensure the success of the project.
“We have serious experience in this field and we have had immense success.
“We have the right partners.
We have the right structure, we have access to funding to do this project, so we are sure that we will succeed.
Nwangwu, however, urged the government to continue dredging the canals to ensure the smooth movement of bags.
News Agency of Nigeria reports that the port is expected to generate over N23 billion to the Federal Government in 30 years