The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo on Thursday unveiled the navigational charts of the lower River Niger from Lokoja in Kogi State to Burutu in Delta State.
The navigational charts cover 594 km (321 nautical miles) with a total survey area of 1719.8 square kilometers.
Speaking at the event held at the NAF Conference Center in Abuja, Sambo said the project is in tandem with the statutory responsibilities and objectives of the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
He said the project would boost the efforts of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government towards the development and operation of an efficient and safe Inland Waterways Transportation Network.
“A well-developed and efficient Inland Water Transportation is necessary for an integrated and functional multi–modal transportation system, whose major pillar is dependent upon accurate and timely hydrographic surveys/charts. The objective of this project is to provide direct maritime linkages within Nigeria and between African countries, thereby catalyzing Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, attracting Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), creating highly needed jobs, and boosting internal as well as intra – African trade,” he said.
The Minister said that the US economy today is supported by revenues of over $70b from 600 million tons of cargo transported through its inland waterways, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs, building and growing Agro-industrial communities along the waterway channels and thus spreading economic prosperity throughout the length and breadth of its waterways network.
“The USA’s waterways and multi-modal transportation network provide a competitive edge in global markets. No wonder, its corn and soybean farmers are the most efficient in the world,” the Minister said.
Sambo said that Nigeria is blessed with an 800 km coastline and over 10,000 km of inland waterways that potentially confers it with such maritime power that in itself alone, can transform this country into a great and prosperous place on earth.
He also affirmed the Federal Ministry of Transportation’s commitment to the successful attainment of the overall objective of the navigational charts project in line with President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision for the holistic and sustainable development of the maritime sector and the Inland Waterways in particular.
He commended the laudable initiative of Sealink Promotional Company Limited with funding from the NEXIM and African Export–Import Bank, the Nigerian Navy and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), who jointly conducted the survey exercise, an effort never before undertaken in the history of our country.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Auwal Gambo, said the project was one of a series of initiatives undertaken by the Federal Government toward actualising economic diversification.
He said the unveiling of the charts was crucial towards the exploitation of the vast strategic reserve of mineral resources along the Lower Niger Basin with great prospects for Nigerian’s economic diversification.
This, according to him, is expected to boost tourism potential, 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.
“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 we are gathered here today is yet another testimony to the resolve of the Federal Government towards evolving comprehensive mechanisms to emplace sustainable infrastructure through public private collaborations,” he said.
The naval chief thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his unflinching support to the Nigeria Navy toward actualising its constitutional mandate.
He assured Nigerians of the willingness of the navy to sustain partnership with critical stakeholders under the collaborative initiative to complete the development of the river channel towards creating vibrant maritime activities along the basin.
He said the Nigerian Navy was poised to provide standard hydrographic service delivery to all mariners within the nation’s maritime environment towards facilitating sustainable blue economy in Nigeria.
Present at the event were the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, the Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr Magdalene Ajani, Managing Directors of Nexim and Afrexim Banks and Heads of Parastatals under the Federal Ministry of Transportation among others.