The Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, has restated the Federal Government’s resolve to develop the country’s inland waterways for a sustainable economic growth and efficient transportation.
Amaechi gave the assurance at the ninth edition of “The Perspective,” an annual lecture series of the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (ONICCIMA) in Onitsha on Wednesday.
The minister said the Federal Government was addressing some of the constraints hindering the full exploitation of the inland waterways.
“The Federal Government intends to facilitate the conclusion of agreements with foreign governments and international organisations for the improvement and development of the inland waterways.
“The government is also working toward promoting inter-modalism in the transport sector as well as develop the inland waterways with the private sector, states and local government participation,” he said.
Amaechi, represented by the Deputy Director of Inland Waterways in the ministry, Nko Esuabana, said a good regulatory framework, financial and monetary policies would be required to make the waterways functional.
He noted that the hazards of freighting of goods through the road from Lagos to Onitsha market had become unimaginable.
In his remarks, Anambra State Governor, Willie Obiano said the issue of inland waterways transport was critical to the economic development of the South East and South-South zones.
“The sector is important to ease transportation on the roads and bring about marine insurance into the economy but unfortunately, the sector has been neglected,” Obiano said.
Obiano, represented by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, said his administration had included logistics as a pillar to develop the state’s inland transportation.
“The state government is interested in ensuring that the Onitsha Inland Port is concessioned. The three chambers of commerce in Awka, Onitsha and Nnewi should collaborate to achieve the feat,’’ he said.
In his lecture, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers Council, Hassan Bello, expressed concern that while there was congestion in the Lagos ports, the inland ports were under-utilised.
Bello, represented by Akintunde Makinde, called for the introduction of thirty per cent incentive in form of rebate for importers and exporters.
He said that the rebate could come through the official clearance, ports and habour dues to motivate business operators to bring in their containers through the eastern ports.
“There is a need to increase security presence in the territorial waters to eliminate fears of importers and exporters.
“The Federal Government should also come up with deliberate policies to encourage industries on the waterways,” he said.