The Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr George Moghalu has given a strong indication that a strategic process is ongoing for the emergence of the preferred concessionaire of Onitsha River Port.
Recall that the process had remained stalled since the build up to 2015 general elections, but became completely abandoned immediately former President Goodluck Jonathan lost the presidential election.
Since the inauguration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s first term, South East Business Leaders had been clamouring for the activation of the Port complex for ease of shipping business. Only last month, the South East Chamber of Commerce, rose from its Annual General Meeting in Onitsha and called for activation of the infrastructure.
However, whereas the revelation made by Dr Moghalu on the ongoing concessioning process may be cheering news for business owners in the region, there are fears over the secrecy clouding the entire process as nobody has seen any newspaper publication or adverts calling for interested bidders to express interest.
NIWA boss had addressed journalists in Lagos during a recent stakeholders’ summit with operators in dredging, inland waterways transportation and other related activities on how best to develop the sector under his watch.
According to him, “Concessioning is a process and not an action, and so it will not augur well if a name is put out and at the end of the day, the person will not meet the criteria.”
He was quick to make it clear that whereas both Onitsha and Baro Ports were completed, and ready for effective use, he explained that just as the process of getting a credible concessionaire is holding back Onitsha, access road to Baro Port remains a key drawback in Niger State.
He averred that “The concessioning of the Onitsha River Port has started and we will be travelling to the Port of Antwerp for due diligence.
“Within my one year of stay, I want to make water transport the choicest transport in the country, and with the support of stakeholders, it can be achieved”, he further said, highlighting that the concessioning is to reduce to the barest, Government’s involvement in the management of the ports,” NIWA chief executive noted.