The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo has disclosed that with the recent acquisition of state-of-the-art survey platforms and equipment, the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Survey Department is poised to provide standard hydrographic service delivery to all mariners within the Nation’s maritime environment towards facilitating sustainable blue economy in Nigeria.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony of Navigational Charts of Lower River Niger conducted by the Nigerian Navy Surveyors in conjunction with NIWA, the CNS recalled that the joint hydrographic survey campaign by NEXIM Bank in partnership with the Nigerian Navy, Sealink Consortium and National Inland Waterways Authority, was flagged-off precisely on 24 November 2021.
Gambo expressed happiness that the survey covering Phases 1 and 2 of the project, which extends from Lokoja to Burutu was completed in line with international standard pointing out that, “Products of the painstaking survey is what has brought us here.
Emphasizing that, “this is a preliminary step towards opening the Lower River Niger”, he assured that “the Nigerian Navy is willing to sustain partnership with NEXIM Bank, Sealink Consortium and the National Inland Waterways Authority including other critical stakeholders under this collaborative initiative to complete development of the river channel towards creating vibrant maritime activities along the Lower River Niger basin.
Admiral Gambo stated that the project is one of series of initiatives undertaken by the Federal Government toward actualizing the Presidential Economic Diversification Initiative for the benefit of Nigerians
He noted that under the unitiative, several policies and programmes aimed at diversifying Nigeria’s economy as well as improving welfare, security and economic prosperity of Nigeria have been introduced
He said, “Undoubtedly, unveiling these charts is crucial towards exploitation of the vast strategic reserve of mineral resources along the Lower Niger Basin with great prospects for Nigerian’s economic diversification.
“This is expected to boost tourism potentials, create more job opportunities and increase economic viability. It would also reduce pressure on road infrastructure, as bulk cargoes would be transported through the channel.
“Furthermore, successful opening of this River Channel for navigation will accelerate activation of concessioned inland ports and export processing zones for handling bulk cargoes from coastal areas and export of solid minerals as well as agricultural produce.
“Thus, the ceremony is yet another testimony to the resolve of the Federal Government towards evolving comprehensive mechanisms to emplace sustainable infrastructure through Public Private Partnership collaborations.
“I therefore consider it most appropriate to appreciate Mr President, Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, for his unflinching support to the Nigeria Navy toward actualizing its constitutional mandate. The Nigerian Navy is indeed very grateful.
In his remarks, Managing Director /Chief Executive, Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Alhaji Abba Bello said the Nigerian Export-Import Bank, being a trade policy bank embarked on the deliberate policy initiative by supporting the project, to bridge maritime infrastructure towards lowering logistics cost to foster trade with the promotion of the Regional Sealink Project.
“As a Special Purpose Vehicle under a public-private-partnership framework, Sealink essentially aims to enable the Bank to significantly broaden national export basket, enhance bulk export capabilities and to ensure Nigeria’s effective intra- African trade participation.
He reiterated NEXIM Bank’s commitment to ensuring that the strategic objectives of the Regional Sealink Project is fully realized with the commencement of pilot operations soon.
His words, “With this unveiling ceremony of navigational charts of lower River Niger. I hope that the participation of key stakeholders and shippers will go a long way in advancing NEXIM Bank’s current initiative and advocacy on the promotion of inland waterways operations for both hinterland and intra-coastal trade.
“Historically, the River Niger and Benue were considered by the British merchants as the most navigable river channels used, hence their use in the late 19th century, where Burutu port served as a link between river transport and the sea. It served as a port terminal for Royal Niger Company and UAC for export cargo consolidation and discharging of goods from ships for onward water transport to river ports in Northern Nigeria and neighboring French territories through rivers Niger and Benue.
“The cessation of the use of the Burutu port in mid-1970s substantially led to considerable level of disuse of the river channel for mercantile trade, leading to siltation of the channel over the years that resulted in navigational challenges. Therefore, this informed the decision to partner with Afreximbank, Nigerian Navy and NIWA to undertake the survey / charting exercise.
“The information to be gleaned from the unveiling ceremony will no doubt provide a guide on the current state of navigability of the river channel, while which would be catalytic to ensuring the design of a framework that would enable channel improvement works necessary to facilitate the commencement of massive commercial operations on the channel, especially for Regional Sealink Project.
Also, information provided from the outcome of the survey/charting activities will highlight the huge inland waterways potentials and opportunities in maritime infrastructure investments.
On it’s part, the Chairman of the AFREXIMBANK, Professor Benedict Oramah said, “The charting of the lower River Niger signals the take-off whistle for commencement of active maritime activities on this great river that traverses this great country – Nigeria.
“It is therefore, a day to be remembered as it looks set to mark the beginning of a new life to businesses in the country requiring to haul various commodities and solid minerals from the hinterlands to the sea shores for processing or for export.
‘It is a day that will mark the beginning of new life to the economies of various communities along the lower river Niger as access to markets for their agricultural commodities will receive a boost as they get evacuated to markets in need and on time too.
“The lifespan of the road network will get elongated as more of the inland cargo get moved through the waterways. Overall, the economy benefits in numerous ways.
“Afreximbank is proud to have played a significant part in making the Charting possible. We provided a grant of USD350,000 for this exercise because of the critical role we know that navigability of the river Niger will play in the country’s trade facilitation and indeed overall developmental aspirations.
In remarks, the Hydrographer of the Nigerian Navy,Rear Admiral CE Okafor said the navigational charts covered a total area of 1,140 square kilometre and a total distance of 456 kilometre from Lokoja in Kogi state to Burutu in Delta state.
Noting that the feat was achieved with 100 per cent local capacity by the Nigerian Navy in conjuction with NIWA personnel, Resr Admiral Okafor said the were spent 14 months unbroken period traversing the lower river niger in two survey motor boats.
He said that at the completion of the charts, 81 features dangerous to navigation in the lower river niger were discovered and need’s to be cleared to make for safe navigation to ensure safety of cargoes.