The National Assembly Joint Committee on Marine Transport has urged the Federal Government to pay adequate attention to developing the National Inland Waterways (NIWA).
The Co-Chairman of the joint committee and Chairman House of Representatives Committee, Ports Harbour and Water Ways, Rep. Asadu Patrick made the call when the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi presented 2019 Maritime budget on Monday.
He said it was disheartening that only two per cent of the sector’s budget was given to NIWA in spite of its potential to compete with revenue generating agency like NPA.
He said: “the transport sector is a key sector in the economy. What troubles me is the neglect of the water transport industry on the budgeting process.
”I have been advocating that there should be a needs assessment in Nigeria before budgets are drawn.
“Year in year out we come here and hear the large budget and we appreciate what you are doing with railways but we also believe God has blessed us with a natural ways and all we needed to do was enhance it especially in terms of moving cargo.
“No government can do it all. I plead that we do something about Nigeria Inland waterways.
“I know what is happening in Central Europe and America about the mode of transport not being totally land based.
“A budget where 95 per cent is to railway and the rest is split to the maritime sector probably because the suspicion is that Nigeria Ports Authority may be self funding but that is not true of NIWA and others.
“Until we are able to move our cargoes off the road, we are going to have all those big trucks spoil our roads.”
He further noted that the development should spread among the agencies and not mainly one agent or one project.
The co-chairman lamented that beyond budgetary provisions, all transport reform bills including NIWA had not received adequate support from the Executive.
“Some of these bills have been there for over 15 years. If the NIWA Repeal and Reenactment bill is signed, NIWA will compete with NPA in terms of revenue base.”
Earlier, the minister noted noted that one element in the Federal Government’s diversification project was “blue economy.”
He said the blue economy had the capacity to improve the economy and reduce dependence on oil.
“The National Inland waterways is among those agencies that we talks about that depends on national budget and what they can raise internally.
“They cover nearly 20 states. The water is drying up so they have to find a way to increase the water level.
“It is expected that they cover about 3,800 Kilometer of navigable water waves.
“The dredging between Warri and Baro has been done, Onitsha River Port, the processes by which we will concession it is ongoing among other achievements.
According to the minister, the maritime agencies were split into two, those that could fund themselves by relying on Internally Generated Revenue(IGR) and those who could not fund themselves alone.
He noted that such agencies combined funding from the national budget and the funds that they could raise.
“Those who cannot raise funds include NIWA. Sometimes I ask if they are a government agency and they cannot answer me.
“It is a bit complex. The essence of the budget is to improve on the performance of the ministry and the maritime sector.
“Our proposal will attempt look at what we have achieved, one of which is attempt to see how we can establish the deep sea port in Akwa Ibom.
“It is essentially funded from a private sector investment. The MDAs will invest 20 per cent.
“We have done the outline business case of Lekki is ongoing and the NPA command and Control Centre is fully operational.”
The minister pointed out that the Federal Government had allowed the ministry to introduce a contract to manage the Gulf of Guinea and you know it is essentially Nigeria and some few other countries.
He said the contract is called Maritime Surveillance Project.
“I want to thank the National Assembly for the support to get that contract started. It was a very challenging one.
“Even when it was awarded after the budget was approved but at the end of the day we were able to get it off the ground.
“They are currently training security agents who will be involved in the protection of the project.”
On 2018 Budget performance, Amaechi said Capital Budget for Marine Transport was N252.81 million, out of which N288. 40 million representing 60 per cent was released.
He further noted that of the amount released, N276.22 milllion representing 85 per cent had been spent.
He also said ”the sum of N508. 80million was budgeted as Overhead Cost out of which we have gotten N296 million, representing 58 per cent.
“Out of the 296 million, we have spent 99 . 9 per cent.
”Meanwhile, the 2019 Budget is N428.50 million.”