By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
Transportation expert, Babatunde Olalere Gbadamosi, says piracy, avoidable boat accidents on the inland waterways which have continued to claim innocent lives, high rate of siltation of the waterways, poor engagement with stakeholders including boat operators coupled with disputes on who has the statutory right to control activities on the waterways will continue to be the bane of the inland waterway transportation in Nigeria unless government takes proactive measures to do things right.
Gbadamosi, the Lagos State gubernatorial candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) stated this in Badagry while presenting a paper entitled Strategies To Improve Intermodal Transport Infrastructure at the 2nd Maritime Journalists’ Retreat hosted at the Administrative Staff College of Nigeria, ASCON, by the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON).
Recalling how the federal government under the military forcefully took over the Lagos ports in the past in what can best be described as an economic ‘coup’, he regretted that over the years, the same federal government has proved incapable of managing the ports and the basic infrastructure.
The ports infrastructure has been reeling under abject neglect with successive federal authorities refusing to demonstrate the needed political will to revive basic infrastructure that can guarantee survival of the ports.
This is the reason, he explained, the chaos in Apapa and Tin can Island ports has become intractable, overwhelming the federal government while congestion, inability to move in and out of the ports and massive infrastructural decay are stifling operations.
It is recalled that many industry stakeholders have condemned a situation the federal government is talking about ease of doing business at the ports when it has stubbornly refused to rehabilitate basic infrastructure that can make this possible. Even with a couple of months to a general election, a government seeking re-election has not shown any interest to make the ports work as appropriate despite her supposed interest in trade facilitation.
In his welcome address, AMJON President, Paul Ogbuokiri, tasked the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to stop bemoaning the inability of the maritime safety administration to confront the scourge of piracy on Nigerian waterways.
Rather than frequently talking about the scourge as being terrible and hurting the nation’s economy, he said the agency should be inward-looking and pragmatic by taking a cue from the peace the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has achieved in recent years through awarding pipeline protection contracts to former militants who, by virtue of their vast knowledge of the terrain, are best positioned to tackle pirate attacks. He urged the agency to stop claiming that piracy on Nigerian waterways is an issue it lacks what it takes to overcome.
“If NIMASA compares with the NNPC today, the reality is that NNPC has proved to be wiser and Nigeria’s crude oil export has continued to blossom uninterrupted with the pipelines guarded by ex-militants.
“In the case of NIMASA, our waters have become a ‘no-go’ area infested by pirates with the country paying over $150 million per year as a war zone insurance premium and other security costs for guards onboard foreign ships calling on Nigerian ports. This is even as NIMASA is busy shopping for foreign security companies to whom it could award mouth-watering security contracts to secure our waters.”
He urged the federal government to ensure that as from the new year, the National Transport Commission (NTC) Act is made operative as well as disbursing the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) to qualified local ship owners to empower them to participate in the carriage of Nigerian crude.
Culled from Business and Maritime West Africa