Minister Launches Waterways Transportation Code, Seeks speedy passage of NIWA Act

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(L-R) Managing Director, NIWA Bola Oyebamiji and Minister of Marine and Blue Economy Adegboyega Oyetola at the NIWA Headquarters in Lokoja , during the commissioning of projects on Tuesday.

By Innocent Orok

The Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola on Tuesday at Lokoja, Kogi State among other dignities commissions several projects at the headquarters of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). The Minister also launched the National Waterways Transportation Code.

The minister who urged NIWA to ensure the enforcement of the regulations, said the codes will drastically reduce accidents on the waterways.
He stated further that the waterway codes eventually came alive after several years of postponement.

The Minister said “As you are all aware, the need to improve Nigeria’s balance of trade, which is very crucial to strengthening the value of the Naira and creating employment, is top on Mr President’s policy agenda. Considering the strategic role that the maritime sector plays in actualising this noble objective, the Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy under my leadership is determined to ensure the maximisation of the comparative advantages that our maritime resources present.

“I am, therefore, not surprised that like every other agency under my watch, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), has also keyed into the concerted efforts at achieving the economic goals of the Renewed Hope Agenda of the current administration led by our pragmatic President, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.

“I must commend the management of NIWA for their visionary intervention in ensuring that the Waterways Transportation Code comes alive after several years of being in the pipeline.

“The Code, as we may be aware, would now guide the boat operators, regulate the conduct of passengers as well as provide a framework for potential investors in water transportation. With the code, I am convinced that we can now standardise Water Transportation, thereby reducing accidents on our waters to the barest minimum.

“This was one of the charges I gave the Managing Director of NIWA when he assumed office. I am happy he is able to take practical steps towards addressing it. I must however urge NIWA to ensure the enforcement of the regulations,” the Minister stated.

Also speaking, the Managing Director of NIWA, Mr Bola Oyebamiji called for the consideration of NIWA in the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF).
In the words of the NIWA MD, “It is a great pleasure to welcome everyone here today, particularly, the Honourable Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, who is on official working visit to the Authority.

“Also, I would like to welcome especially, His Excellency, the Governor of Kogi State for finding time to be with us despite your tight schedule and the enormous tasks before you. We are indeed very grateful.

“Your Excellency, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I was appointed almost seven months ago as the MD/CEO of this Authority by Mr President and Commander-in-Chief, His Excellency, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, through the personal efforts and doggedness of the Honourable Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, my leader and mentor.

“At my resumption in this Authority, I promised the Management staff and other workers that we would run an open-door policy where cross-fertilization of ideas would reign supreme. I equally promised a quick appraisal of the existing structure for us to forge ahead with a clear vision.

“Our appraisal process unravelled challenges of different shades. We were confronted with internal agitations for a better working environment for staff amidst other demands. Within the period, we recorded not less than three fatal boat accidents on the waterways in different locations which challenged our emergency response strategies. We equally discovered a gap in our approach to enforcement on the waterways and public enlightenment programmes. These and many more challenged us to look inward and harness available resources innovatively for immediate response.

“Distinguished guests, to achieve our objectives, we started the immediate implementation of Education Grants for all categories of staff. This was followed by the issuance of promotion letters to the deserving staff and the implementation of medical packages for retired Senior Officers.

“We believe that a well-motivated workforce is pivotal to organizational success. We proceeded further to audit and institutionalize our public engagement strategy by putting in place a system which recognises the communities as an important element in our information-sharing and emergency response structure.

“Today, through the Area Offices, we have met and created a database of critical stakeholders and opinion moulders within the ecosystem that can be reached for information dissemination and rapid response. Similarly, we have equally intensified our efforts in public enlightenment and enforcement. This is why we are launching the first phase of the water marshal initiatives today. These officers were carefully selected to provide information daily to users of the waterways at selected jetties and loading points. They must ensure that all users adhere strictly to safety regulations always.

“Talking about safety regulations on the inland waterways, our efforts within the shortest period are yielding the desired result. Today, you are here to officially launch the Transportation Code for public use.

“Going forward, this Code will guide the boat operators, regulate the conduct of passengers and provide a framework for potential investors in water transportation. At this point, kindly permit me to recognize the enormous efforts put into this by the past Management Teams, they did their best until we took over. It was indeed a long journey here.

“Also ready for commissioning in response to the outcomes of our self-appraisal are 15 boats of varying capacities and uses. There are three PC W23 boats with 150HP each for surveillance to ensure that the NIWA Police officers are more visible; five PC W23 boats with doubles 75HP each for enforcement of safety rules and regulations; one Gun patrol boat (combat ready) with 115HP for emergency response to security threat; one 62-seater passenger boat as a pilot to replace the wooden passenger canoe.

“I should add here that another 32-seater boat, not part of what we are commissioning today, is waiting at our Port Harcourt Area Office for deployment for the same purpose. Finally, we have three fully equipped water ambulances for prompt response to emergencies and two hydrographic survey boats with multi-beam echo sounders to provide a more detailed and accurate picture of the seafloor.

“The Honourable Minister, Sir, to further inject a dose of efficiency into how we work at the Headquarter here in Lokoja, we have presented the following facilities for commissioning: a 2-storey office building to solve the internal problem of shortage of offices; a standard Primary Healthcare Center registered with NHIS; a befitting security post for the NIWA Police; a reception building to provide information for clients and visitors; and a fire truck to respond to emergencies within and outside the premises.

“As a Management, the responsibilities placed on our shoulders are enormous amidst limited resources. As an agency, we are confronted with many challenges including inter-agencies rivalry occasioned by overlapping functions. This calls for speedy action on the NIWA Act currently before the National Assembly.

Similarly, we recognise your efforts at ensuring that the Cabotage Fund is disbursed for the greater good of the sector, we therefore plead that NIWA be supported to benefit maximally from this fund and its administrative set-up.

“Also, we are working hard to deliver on the bond signed with the Honourable Minister late last year. However, we plead for your support in facilitating funding for our major Key Performance Indicators; the Capital dredging of 2000 km and the completion of the ongoing inland port at Ganaja, Lokoja. These are some of the areas we need your quick intervention for us to achieve our mandates. Sir, with your kind permission, we shall present a list of issues we consider critical to our success for your attention”,the NIWA Managing Director said.

Other dignitaries including the Kogi State Governor, represented by his Deputy, National Assembly members and other stakeholders also gave their goodwill messages and commended NIWA for the feat so far achieved within the last seven months of the Oyebamiji leadership.

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