Onitsha River Port

By Okey Ibeke

Not a couple of Nigerians have been amazed not too long ago when information broke out that Onitsha River Port has been commissioned, and has began full operations with vessels and barges calling on the river port. For knowledgeable individuals, maritime observers and stakeholders, the information of the commissioning sounded very unusual because the river port had been commissioned thrice up to now 20 years.

However the information was given credibility by the image of the Managing Director of the Nationwide Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, Dr. George Moghalu, who was seen slicing a tape with some individuals behind him. This motion by the NIWA managing director has despatched tongues wagging and asking whether or not Moghalu knew what he was doing in any respect and what method of commissioning that was.

The social media was awash with feedback and praises of the commissioning ceremony. The faux information of full operations on the port was additional boosted by a cargo schedule from Maersk line displaying China-Onitsha vacation spot which was positioned on social media.

Even the Particular Assistant to President Mohammadu Buhari, on Digital and New Media, Tolu Ogunlesi, was reported to have confirmed the commissioning ceremony and the graduation of operations on the port.

“Maersk is now (beginning 2020) sending container ships direct from China to the Onne Port, with out the necessity to first name at Lagos,” he was quoted as saying in a tweet.

“Now, when the ship berths in Onne, will probably be offloaded and the containers going to Onitsha Port will likely be barged down.”

The information of the commissioning attracted congratulations for presidency, NIWA and Moghalu. Dr Orji Kalu, former governor of Abia State lauded the Federal Authorities for revamping Onitsha River Port.

In a press release, Kalu mentioned the resumed actions at Onitsha seaport will enhance financial actions within the South East and finally create employment alternatives and wealth for Nigerians. He recommended the efforts of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIWA for the event.

Stated Kalu: “With the functioning of Onitsha seaport, exporters and importers will likely be relieved of the stress of transporting containers by street from totally different ports to the South East and vice versa.

“With the graduation of actions at Onitsha seaport, companies will thrive additional within the South East. The bottlenecks being confronted by exporters and importers will likely be diminished as containers can now be transported from Onne Port and different ports via the waterways to Onitsha seaport and vice versa.

“The actions within the seaport will drive industrialisation and sustainable improvement in Onitsha and South East at giant. The revamping of Onitsha river port is one other feat achieved by the Federal Authorities below President Muhammadu Buhari,” Kalu mentioned.

All these congratulations would have been apt if certainly Onitsha River Port has grow to be operational. Individuals of South East would have had trigger to jubilate and to reward the Buhari administration. Sadly, the charade is one other episode within the bag of many many years of  deceit of the current and previous governments  for the easterners.

Adequate, Maersk Line, the multi-national transport line whose transport schedule was used to perpetrate the faux information, got here out promptly to refute the declare and to place the file straight. The transport line debunked the information that it has commenced full operation on the Onitsha inland port.

In an e-mail response to an enquiry, Maersk mentioned: “There are some inaccurate information experiences going round as we aren’t calling at Onitsha port with our vessels as this isn’t operationally possible because of the draft of our vessels.

“We do nevertheless provide a via invoice product for our prospects through which cargo discharged at Onne is trucked to the Clarion Bonded Terminal in Onitsha, which is roughly reverse the Niger River.” This was clarified by Kerry Rosser, Maersk Africa Communication Supervisor.

What truly is occurring at Onitsha is {that a} bonded terminal operator, Clarion Bonded Terminal, constructed a terminal very near the Onitsha River Port. As bonded terminals are recognised as ports locations in transport, some importers designate Clarion Bonded Terminal  as their port of vacation spot within the Invoice of Lading. Such containers arrive first at a seaport and are stemmed down for conveyance to the inland port.

The containers in query purported  to be coming to Onitsha River Port,  first arrive at Onne Port. Clarion picks them from Onne Port and produce them to Onitsha by vans. Clarion doesn’t even convey them by barges because the river course shouldn’t be even navigable. It’s, subsequently, misleading to insinuate that containers have began arriving at Onitsha River Port by sea. No less than, Maersk made it clear that its ships aren’t coming to Onitsha as a result of it isn’t operationally possible because of the water draft.

Recalling that a couple of weeks in the past, late September, NIWA had mentioned the graduation of transport operations at Onitsha Port was focused on the first quarter of 2021 one is stunned on the sudden information that the port has grow to be operational.

NIWA’s Space Supervisor at Onitsha Space Workplace, Mrs. Queen Uba, had mentioned operations on the port have been on maintain because of the ongoing concession course of, and that NIWA was prepared for full operations as quickly as the method was accomplished. “NIWA has put in place all obligatory issues for efficient operation of the port and we’re simply ready for the completion of the concession course of.

Whereas we’re ready for the completion of the concession course of, the administration has entered into settlement with Join rail Providers Restricted to kick begin the lifting of products from the port to different locations within the nation,” she mentioned.

What NIWA has failed to tell the general public is that there’s no manner the river port will likely be operational as there’s at the moment no concessionaire in place. That is in order the concession course of is stalled because of a case instituted by Worldwide Buying and selling and Contracting Restricted towards the Federal Ministry of Transportation, NIWA, the Infrastructure Concession  Regulatory Authority and 4 others.

The Onistha River Port Supervisor, Mr. Baba Spencer corroborated Mrs. Uba’s assertion, saying the port was prepared to be used with all of the services  wanted to function successfully in place.However one wonders what NIWA has put in place that has not been there since 2013 the port was commissioned after completion in 2012.

What one expects Dr. Moghalu’s NIWA to do whereas ready for the completion of the concession is to embark on upkeep dredging of the channel to the port, because it claims it had performed capital dredging. The channel continues to be choked by sand bars and silts with islands that developed inside the massive river years again nonetheless  standing near the port.

In the intervening time, even the smallest vessel can’t ply the channel. Barges might even discover it tough to maneuver on the water. But, NIWA is claiming all the things has been put in place. The one factor that may show that Onitsha port has grow to be operational is when small vessels and barges begin bringing cargoes to the port. Bringing cargoes to the port through trucking can’t make it a river port, for it received’t be any totally different from any inland dry port positioned within the hinterland the place there is no such thing as a water entry.

Dr. Moghalu, ought to, subsequently, not be a part of earlier MDs of NIWA or the federal authorities in deceiving South East enterprise women and men. As an alternative, he ought to work quietly and assiduously in direction of the complete realization of getting Onitsha Port start full operations.

A charade equivalent to what occurred final week won’t advance his political curiosity, that’s, the gubernatorial curiosity he’s nursing which his get together, the APC, has endorsed. South easterners and their well-wishers need to see concrete motion, not deceit or speeches. They’ve been seeing that within the final 30 years.

One other subject that put a deceive NIWA’s narrative is the  absence of personnel of Nigeria Customs Service within the River Port. Their absence signifies that it’s not but a Customs designated port and as such won’t be allowed to obtain cargoes.

What NIWA below Moghalu ought to do is to make sure it lives as much as the problem of facilitating transport operations within the port with a view to spur its actions past the trucking of cargoes which Clarion Depot is at the moment doing.

For the data, Onitsha Inland Port was constructed below the administration of President Shehu Shagari in 1983. It remained idle, mendacity fallow till 2012 when it was rehabilitated and commissioned by former President Goodluck Jonathan.

But operations didn’t start on the port. Since then, it has been one of many marketing campaign guarantees politicians have been utilizing to deceitfully  solicit for votes from the South East.

The NIWA managing director, because the son of the soil, ought to work speedily in direction of the completion of the concession of the port which began since 2013. The shortcoming to conclude the concession is claimed to be liable for the port not turning into operational.

One remembers that the concession course of was stalled with the construct as much as the 2015 basic election. It turned utterly deserted after the election that introduced President Buhari to energy.

The concession course of itself had been marred by courtroom instances,  intrigues, insincerity, protests and vested pursuits on the a part of NIWA and Ministry of Transport officers.

The dormancy of the Onitsha River Port and what had been occurring with the concession attracted the eye of the eighth Federal Home of Representatives. As a part of its probe of the maritime sector, the Home initiated an investigative listening to into the alleged malpractices being perpetrated with the concession, accusing NIWA of dishonesty with the proposed concession of Onitsha River Port.

The listening to which was held in Abuja by the Home of Representatives Committee on Ports, Harbours and Waterways, adopted a number of motions calling for an investigation into alleged malpractices within the maritime sector.

The chairman of the Committee, Dr. Pat Asadu, in his deal with mentioned the Nationwide Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) was deceptive the general public concerning the proposed concession of Onitsha River Port, saying that the authority by no means needed the port to work.

He chided NIWA for making claims that weren’t verifiable, particularly when there was nothing to point out for enormous sums of cash claimed to have been spent on the port. The Home pointedly accused NIWA of malpractices and intentionally partaking in actions that militate towards placing the port into operation.

It was after this investigative listening to and after being rattled by the lawmakers that NIWA and the Ministry of Transport kick-started the concessioning the port once more. Nonetheless there have been protests and accusations. The competing companies accused NIWA and its supervising ministry, the Ministry of Transportation, of complicated points and interesting in acts able to scuttling the method.

The accusation of confusion was proved when NIWA mentioned in 2018 that it had concluded the train and would quickly announce the winner or the concessionaire to be handed over the port earlier than the top of the yr. However this was by no means to be as a result of two senior ministry officers have been mentioned to have raised conflicting memos in favour of their most well-liked corporations.

In March this yr, NIWA MD, Dr. Moghalu mentioned {that a} strategic course of was ongoing for the emergence of the popular concessionaire for the port. Nonetheless, the secrecy beclouding the whole course of continues to be worrisome as nothing regarding the train has ever appeared within the papers in type of averts.

However Moghalu has mentioned the concession is a painstaking train, because it “is a course of and never an motion. And that NIWA is ensuring that the proper concessionaire that meets the factors is chosen on the finish of the day.

No matter could also be the reason for the delay, it’s important that all the things is finished expeditiously in direction of making the port operational. This contains guaranteeing that the channel is dredged to allow barges and small vessels clean entry to the port.

The Moghalu administration in NIWA shouldn’t be seen to hitch his predecessors in sustaining the lie about River Niger dredging, in addition to the general deceit that has been the lot of Onitsha River Port for a number of many years now.

*Ibeke, a maritime advisor, wrote from Onitsha, Anambra State


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