The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) is in charge of inland waterways branch of water transport in the Federal Ministry of Transportation. Hitherto Inland Waterways Department (IWD), it metamorphosed into an Authority vide an act of the National Assembly, CAP 47, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN), 2004 (Decree No. 13 of 1997).
The National Inland Waterways Authority was established with the primary responsibility of improving and developing Nigeria’s inland waterways for navigation.
The law establishing NIWA gave it the following statutory roles: Provide regulation for inland water navigation; Ensure development of infrastructural facilities for a national inland waterways connectivity with economic centers using the River Ports and nodal points for inter-nodal exchanges.
Others include ensure the development of indigenous technical and managerial skills to meet the challenges of modern inland waterways transportation; There are several other functions and powers of the authority properly enunciated and documented in laws establishing NIWA.
Other functions and powers of the Authority include but not limited to the following: To undertake capital and maintenance dredging; undertake hydrological and hydrographic surveys: design ferry routes: survey, remove, and receive derelicts, wrecks and other obstructions from in land waterways; operate ferry services within the inland waterways system.
NIWA also undertakes installation and maintenance of lights, buoys and all navigational aids along water channels and banks; issue and control licenses for inland navigation, piers, jellies, dockyards; examine and survey inland water crafts and shipyard operators; grant permit and licenses for sand dredging, pipeline construction, dredging of slots and crossing of waterways by utility lines, water intake, rock blasting and removal; grant licenses to private inland waterway operators; approve designs and construction of inland river crafts.
Inland waterways are made up of navigable rivers, lakes, coastal creeks, lagoons and canals. The movement of goods and services along inland waterways is one of the oldest means of transporting goods and services from point to point.
This is largely due to the fact that inland water transport offers the most economical, energy efficient and environmental friendly means of transporting all types of cargo from place to place. It also offers safer and cheaper rates in areas where water exist naturally.
This facilitates commerce, promotes wealth creation, poverty alleviation, and creates job opportunities for youths within such regions. The ancillary sector of boat building industry also generates employment through active engagement of the youths in welding and fabrication process.
Despite the immense benefits to the economy, inland water transport in Nigeria has had a long history of neglect by both government and the private sector.
Little efforts were made to develop inland water transport facilities prior to the 1980s. This stemmed largely from policy inconsistency, limited private sector involvement, and conflicts between and among agencies involved in the management of inland water transport in Nigeria.
Since the 1990s, however, the federal government has taken a number of initiatives, including capital and infrastructure improvement, channels dredging and maintenance and installation of safety facilities to turn the sector around.
Industry watchers and analysts have argued that with efficient control systems, the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority could function appropriately to make economic fortunes.
Their arguments stem from the efficient operations of the Inland Waterways Transportation of the U.S. with about 25,000 nautical miles, out of which 12,000 miles have been commercialised and maintained by the government.
The American inland, intra-coastal and coastal waterways and channels, available statistics reveal, accommodates about 3,008 businesses and 24,908 employees as well as makes about N8 bn dollars annually.
More than 60 per cent of America’s grain exports, about 22 per cent of domestic petroleum products and 20 per cent of the coal used in electricity generation is ferried via America’s water transportation system.
Briefing State House correspondents Thursday on the activities of the agency, Managing Director of NIWA, Mr George Moghalu, said theNational Inland Waterways Authority has been repositioned to carry out its mandate and to be counted among the best in the world.
He said the National Inland Waterways Authority is executing projects to make it meet up with the yearnings and aspirations if Nigerians in respect of its core mandate.
Addressing insecurity in Lake Chad
He said the agency, has sufficiently addressed insecurity in the Lake Chad basin, stressing that a comprehensive hydrological survey of the Lake Chad region is currently been undertaken to ensure that the Lake Chad region is safe for economic and other human activities.
He said: “Ordinarily, nobody will want to talk about Lake Chad but a as we speak, survey work is going on in Lake Chad axis. What that goes to say is that the issue of insecurity has been significantly addressed.
“Because if there was that insecurity that is being painted in Lake Chad, I don’t think our surveyors will be there. We are collaborating with the Nigerian Navy and the survey work is going on; the hydrographic survey of Lake Chad waterways,”
He said that once the waterways from the lake are reopened, it will link Nigeria with about five countries.
The Managing Director also disclosed that over 65 percent of the cargos coming into Nigeria through the Lagos Port usually end up in Onitsha and Aba in the Southeast-Eastern part of the country.
He also said that everything is in place for the movement of cargo in Onitsha River Port even though he explained that it is the owner of the cargo that will determine the movement.
He said the current road infrastructure cannot withstand the volume of traffic required to move cargo from the Southeast to other parts of the country.
This, he said, necessitated recent efforts by NIWA to provide water inroads to the Northern part of the country.
He said that water transportation would help to reduce the weight of the heavy duty traffic on the roads and also generate revenue for the country.
The NIWA boss tasked Nigerians on the management of waste products, stressing that the menace of floating debris in vital waterways is a harmful practice.
He said the NIWA spends a fortune annually to rid the waterways of non-biodegradable wastes such as plastic and rubber.
He said that work has commenced at the Oguta River Port which he said was abandoned for 13 years, until the coming of the Muhammadu Buhari-Led administration, adding that perimeter fence has been erected at the place and the port now segmented.
He said the NIWA, under his leadership, has created enabling environment and support to staff in appreciation of their meritorious services.
Indeed, the NIWA under Mr George Moghalu, has set the tone and development path for water transportation and looks set to revolutionising the sub-sector.