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Thursday, May 31, 2018

N4bn Port Facilities Decay In Onitsha 5 Years After

Five years after it was commissioned, the N4 billion facilities at Onitsha River Port are rusting away due to lack of concessionaire to manage the port.

The river port was rehabilitated and handed over to the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC) for concession in order to save shippers about N100 billion annually from the costs incurred on cargo clearing at the Lagos seaports.

It is also aimed at preventing losses and risk in transporting the cargo by roads to the various cities in the eastern region.

Already, Expression of Interest (EoI) had received ministerial approval since 2017, but findings revealed that no tangible work has been done to commence the concession of the port.

Also, no concrete reason has been provided by the Federal Ministry of Transportation for delaying the concession.

Meanwhile, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA)’s General Manager, Corporate Affairs, Mr Tayo Fadile, told this newspaper that the authority has done its part and had handed over the port to the ministry.

He noted that it was not the responsibility of NIWA to concession the river port.

Fadile said: “After rehabilitation, we handed over the port to the Federal Ministry of Transportation for concessioning. The concession is being handled by another agency.”

When contacted by telephone, the Director of Press at the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Mrs Yetunde Sonaike, did not respond to a message sent to her as at the time of filing the report.

However, it was learnt that importers were not willing to ferry their containers by barges from the main ports in Lagos, Onne, Rivers and Delta because of the topography of the lower River Niger.

But, according to the Managing Director of Oktopo Logistics Limited, Mr. Samuel Elem, the facilities at river port in the city were wasting due to lack of patronage.

He noted that cargoes expected to be discharged at the port are being freighted through the road. They include household items, machinery, textile materials, motor spare parts and accessories, motorcycle spares and accessories, electronics and electrical goods, building materials, pharmaceutical products, industrial machineries and others.

“When you estimate the costs, importers pay more on freight and, in some cases, they lose their cargoes to thieves and accidents on the highways,” he noted.

Also, Managing Director of Sceptre Consult, Mr Ayodele Jayeola, who said the port was strategic to Warri, Rivers and Onne ports, explained that importers were reluctant to move their cargo through the port because the river was not deep enough.

He said that Onitsha was one of the strategic commercial cities of Nigeria and the West African sub-region with high business activities taking place all year round.

However, he explained that insecurity along the river creeks and estuaries may have created fear in the minds of shippers.

According to him, “nobody would want to risk transporting his consignments where they would not be delivered safely. Everybody knows what has been happening in the Niger Delta areas. The means of conveying the cargoes to the port can be hijacked by thieves.”

He said that once the barge transporting the consignments from the main port is trapped, it would cost extra money to reload them.

It would be recalled that Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said in Lagos, at the 2017 National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) International Conference and Exhibition, that tremendous progress on the concessioning of Onitsha River Port had been made.

He said that the process of concessioning of the port would be completed before the end of 2017.

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