BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The ministerial hammer has fallen on the management of the National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, to discontinue its ongoing wrecks removal activity, barely two weeks after commencement of operation at some of its prime routes, namely Ibeshe, Owode and Ijora, within the Lagos operational zone.
Athough the Minister of Transportation, Engr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo who gave the order Thursday at the Eko Hotels and Suites during this year’s celebration of the World Maritime Day, did not specifically mentioned water hyacinth, he said NIWA and other agencies involved in the removal of water hyacinth must disengaged, noting that such activities is wastage of scare resources and that this government will no longer give room to such needless waste.
NIWA had told journalists during the flag off of its wrecks removal exercise that among other factors, wrecks constitute the major causes of inland waterways transportation accidents. Earlier in September, NIWA Managing Director, Bar. George Moghalu hinted that it the authority was set to commence wrecks removal.
Speaking with newsmen during the flag off of the exercise barely a week ago, NIWA Lagos Area Manager, Engineer Sarat Braimah said: “We have identified human error and wrecks as the two major reasons why we keep having boat mishaps in Lagos.
“That was why we started the training of boat skippers. The training was aimed at addressing the issue of human error leading to boat mishaps on our waterways. To address wreck menace, we decided to commence the removal of wrecks in three locations along the Lagos waterways.
“We are starting today with Ijora. By next week, we will move to Owode and Ibeshe axis to remove wrecks so that waterways users will move freely on the waterways in Lagos. We have done survey analysis of what the wrecks look like and the reports have long been submitted.”
The Lagos area manager who said the exercise will last for the next three months, further explained that NIWA left out the Kirikiri to Badagry axis since the federal government has given Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, the nod to handle the removal of wrecks there.
Wrecks removal has been a major source of cold war between the concerned agencies, including the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, as experts say the business of wrecks removal is an attractive one with huge budget and the brisk businesses that goes with it.
There have been concerns that the politics of wrecks removal and its attendant huge budgetary allocations and administration have resulted into shoddy management of wrecks removal which has become a regular regime for free money and brisk businesses by certain individuals in the relevant agencies.
It has also thrown up stiff territorial wars until the immediate past Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman and the incumbent NIMASA Director General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh feeling concerned, resolved to close gaps and to become more responsible in managing the cleanup of the channels be it wrecks or water hyacinths removal; which they delineated into defined territories for ease of administration.
Speaking on NIWA’s supposed decision to allow NIMASA handle the Badagry axis wrecks removal, a report quoting Braimah stated:
“We were supposed to start from the Badagry area but as you all know, NIMASA has been given the approval to remove wrecks from Kirikiri to Badagry. That is why we are focusing on other areas of the Lagos Inland waterways.
“The Badagry area is close to the routes where ocean going vessels pass through when coming to our ports, that was why it was agreed that NIMASA should handle that area.”
The minister, who was concerned about transparency in government businesses in the transportation sector, said he will tackle whatever is wrong in the sector within the space of time available to him.
He said, “No agency under the Federal Ministry of Transportation, FMOT, which I oversee should spend a kobo anymore on the removal of water hyacinth. I am talking to The Nigerian National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, they should take note.
“The time we are in require that we cut down on expenses and block all areas of leakages. We have people who will remove water hyacinth for us at no cost, so I don’t want to see any memo on clearing of weeds, be it water hyacinth or any other grass.”