The Nigerian Inland Waterways Agency (NIWA) has described as irresponsible and deliberate misinformation, the statement credited to the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, alleging that former President Goodluck Jonathan wasted N34 billion on the dredging of the River Niger, a contract awarded by Yar’adua in 2008 while the current administration did the job with a mere N100 million.
In a telephone inquiry by an online platform on Friday, a director with NIWA wonder why the honourable minister will send such inaccurate and total false information to Nigerians about the dredging of the River Niger.
The phone call was transferred to one Mr Aminu, who the director described as an expert and have more information on the dredging of the River Niger and the proposed dredging of River Benue extended to Adamawa.
Mr Aminu said that, “the Musa Yar’adua’s government signed the N34.8billion contract for the dredging of lower River Niger on 1st December, 2008 not Goodluck Jonathan as claimed by Amaechi. The 572km project which has a three-year completion plan was inaugurated on September 10, 2009 and was completed and certified in June 2011 and the first maintenance dredging started immediately and was also completed in 2012.”
The Nigerian Inland Waterways Agency explained that “the dredging of lower River Niger contract from Warri (Delta State) to Baro (Niger State) covered eight states, Bayelsa, Rivers, Imo, Anambra, Delta, Edo, Niger and Kogi, divided into five lots with several bifurcations, capital dredging works, maintenance dredging works, River training works (installation of navigational aids) and community development works.
“The Transport Minister should not have executed all these in less than two weeks he flagged off the ‘Maintenance’ project in Ajaokuta”.
“Navigational aids were installed in the dredged channels while BUOYS to Highlight safety and sensitive zones and to mark the dredged channels were installed and laid in all the 5 Lots of the project in 2012.
NIWA said, according to the media platform, that all the routes from Baro to Warri are currently open and accessible for vessels to move products and goods through the dredged channels to different parts of the country.
Another staff of NIWA chipped in that in August 2011, NINON, a Marine Transport Company moved 300 tonnes of tiles equivalent to 15-20 trailer loads of tiles from Lokoja through the dredged lower River Niger channels to Onitsha and they have regular traffic on the route. He added that construction companies do moved their big vessels from Port Harcourt to Baro, which they could not due to do prior to the dredging.
On the N100 million which the Transport Minister, Mr Amaechi claimed that the Buhari’s government used to dredge the River Niger, the Inland Waterways Agency staff clarified that it is a “bare faced lie” as there is nothing like such cost.
“Even if he was dredging a local river the cost will still be huge, as moving heavy slurry pumps and equipment will run into Billions and he is saying that he used N100 million to dredge the River Niger”.
The fact is that he was only trying to be heard bearing in mind the current confusion in and around the country”.
“To get the facts right, the River Niger was dredged and certified completed in 2011 and initial maintenance finishd in 2012, however, the recent flooding in some part of the country affected the dredged channels which shifted positions, deepened the river above the dredged channels and caused siltation in the channels. NIWA took a reconfirmation survey to address the effects of the flooding on the dredged channels and that is why we need the current maintenance and the actual price has not being sent to the government”.
Mr Gida Mustapha, the managing director of NIWA reconfirmed in December 2016 that River Niger was dredged in 2012 and that Buhari’s government earmarked N10 billion for the completion of inland ports under construction in Baro, Lokoja, and Ogoja.
He added that the Oguta port in Imo State had reached 70% completion while Onitsha port had been completed years back.
On April 28, 2017, less than two week ago, the Transport Minister, Mr Amaechi flagged off the “Maintenance Dredging” of a portion the River Niger from Ajaokuta to Onitsha at Ajaokuta and one wonders why Nigerians were unable to brush off the dubious statement by the honorable minister apparently aimed to tarnish the image of former President, Goodluck Jonathan who did not even award the contract.
Amaechi during the flagging off ceremony in Ajaokuta directed the NIWA to include the cost of a bigger dredger in the organisation’s 2018 budget (not even 2017 budget), implying that this project he claimed he executed with N100m has NEVER been budgeted for and may not even be embarked on or before the general election in 2019.
NIWA staff in a layman’s form, explained the ‘Maintenance Dredging’ work and Amaechi’s claim of using N100 million against N34 billion awarded for the real dredging project by Yar’adua in 2008. They said that it is like comparing the cost of Constructing of an Airport and the cost of fixing a broken pipe in one of the toilets in the Airport. It is our routine job to maintain the Waterways, by the dredging was done by big dredging companies”.