Friday, 28 April 2017

FG to save over N34billion in dredging of River Niger

The Federal Government Friday said it will save over N24billion as it commences maintenance dredging of River Niger from Ajaokuta to Onitsha.

This was disclosed during the official flag off of the dredging exercise along Ajaokuta Waterways channel.

It is believed that the exercise which will be done by the Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) will boost trade in Kogi State and it’s environs.

Speaking, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi said: “I was told that the last dredging exercise cost N44 billion and the federal government was only able to pay N34billion.

“With the flag-off of this maintenance exercise that will be done by NIWA, the government will be saving that N34billion. NIWA will use N100bn and the remaining N24 will be channeled to other sectors of the economy like the construction of road from Abaaji to Lokoja.

Amaechi also ordered NIWA to include two items in the 2018 budget. The items are; the purchase of bigger dredger and allowance for staff of NIWA separate from their salary.

He also urged the host community to give the government the enabling environment to develop the sector.

Also speaking, the Governor of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello said the dredging exercise will cover a distance of 162km from Ajaokuta to Onitsha.

On it’s essence, Bello said: “It is intended to keep the waterways between the two locations navigable all year round, thus improving transport and trade.

“It will reduce the menace of flooding on our communities by clearing the waterbeds of obstructions.”

The governor also expressed optimism that an Environmental impact Assessments have been duly conducted to ameliorate any adverse effect of the process to native communities, their farmlands and fishing places.

The governor also urged the minister to advocate for Kogi State in FEC. He said: “We want the Honourable Minister to help us reiterate to the Federal Executive Council that Ajaokuta Steel Complex must be resuscitated and maximised immediately.

“Thousands of Hectares of valuable land beldnging to Kogi State is occupied by it. Many of our communities were displaced to make room for it. It is thus urgently important that it begins to give back to Kogi State, and by extension, Nigeria as soon as possible.

“Kogi State offers several quickwins for your assignment at the Federal Ministry of Transport. We share boundaries with 10 States and the Federal Capital Territory.

“We are the intersection at the centre of the Nation. Transport, trade and commerce can be quickly boosted across the various parts of this country if you place a transport hub especially land and waterways, in Kogi State which will radiate outward to every part of the Nigeria.”

Commenting also, the NIWA boss Boss Mustapha said: “On assumption of office a few months ago, I realised that the Authority own a dredger which was on lease. As the need for maintenance dredging of Ajaokuta/Onitsha waterways had become imminent, especially as it was affecting the conduct of businesses on our waterways.

“In search for solutions, ‎I realised that NIWA possesses the necessary manpower and technical know-how to carry out the maintenance dredging of channels as opposed to contracting the task out, incuring large expenses in the face of dwindling resources and increasing staff redundancy among other things.

“The current exercise is a value focused project aimed at providing navigable channels on routes with proven economic activities.

“The estimated removal of 523, 000m of dredged material will create deeper channels suitable for the current movement of ceramic tiles and granites from Ajaokuta to Onitsha, clay from Ozubulu to Ajaokuta among others.

“Hopefully, the next and final phase of our campaign will focus more on river training works such as channel contraction/straightening, shore protection, installation of barrages and groynes, cross dams, bottom panels with accompanying navigation like lightening for night navigation and provision of security and communication installations.”

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