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Oyetola unveils plans for NIWA, others

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Projects that will enhance the operational capabilities and safety standards of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) were inaugurated yesterday by Minister of Marine and Blue Economy Adegboyega Oyetola.

It was during his one-day trip to the NIWA headquarters in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital.

Oyetola was received by a NIWA team led by its Managing Director Alhaji Bola Oyebamiji.

Oyetola spoke on the critical role of the maritime sector in improving Nigeria’s balance of trade, strengthening the naira, and creating employment.

“The Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy is determined to maximize the comparative advantages our maritime resources present, in line with President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s Renewed Hope Agenda”, he stated.

A key achievement celebrated during the visit was the long-awaited Water Transportation Code. This new regulatory framework is expected to significantly standardise water transportation, minimise accidents, and provide a structured environment for potential investors.

The minister praised members of NIWA’s management for their efforts in bringing this vital code to fruition.

The projects inaugurated include 15 boats of varying capacities and purposes, designed to enhance surveillance, safety enforcement, and emergency response on Nigeria’s waterways. Notably, the fleet comprises three surveillance boats, five safety enforcement boats, a gun patrol boat, a 62-seater passenger boat as a pilot scheme to replace traditional wooden canoes, three water ambulances, and two hydrographic survey boats equipped with multi-beam echo sounders.

“These initiatives fulfil our commitment to ensuring our inland waterways are well-utilised for both cargo shipment and passenger transportation”, Oyetola said.

He also pledged to address both internal and external challenges impeding NIWA’s operations, ensuring continuous improvement and expansion of navigable waterways.

On the ministry’s plans, the minister explained that his goal is to increase navigable waterways by at least 2,000 kilometres through comprehensive dredging. He also mentioned ongoing efforts to finalize the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), which aims to support the development of the maritime sector.

The minister called upon the private sector to invest in and partner with the government, leveraging the numerous opportunities within the maritime industry to foster sustainable development.

“We will continue to create an enabling environment, develop supportive policies, and offer necessary assistance to grow the Inland Waterways segment”, he said.

Kogi State Governor, Alhaji Usman Ododo, represented by his deputy, Salifu Joel, hailed President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for appointing the right person as NIWA’s Managing Director.

He said: “When we were coming here, our people asked where we were going, I told them we were going to a NIWA event. They asked, ‘Which one is NIWA?’ This means until now, no one knew NIWA. But we know NIWA now because the President has appointed the right person that is making impact”.

NIWA MD Oyebamiji noted the minister’s support and guidance in driving organizational reforms and enhancing operational efficiency. He outlined the agency’s proactive measures, including the implementation of education grants, promotion letters, and medical packages for staff members, to boost morale and productivity.

Oyebamiji also highlighted NIWA’s initiatives in public engagement, emergency response, and enforcement, culminating in the launch of the first phase of water marshal initiatives. These efforts, coupled with the unveiling of the Transportation Code, he said, underscore NIWA’s commitment to ensuring the safety and efficiency of inland water transportation.

The Permanent Secretary, Mr. Oloruntola Olufemi, commended the NIWA management for the feat achieved so far and encouraged it to do more. He also assured NIWA of the ministry’s support in actualising its mandate.

Oyetola consequently inaugurated the newly completed projects, marking a significant step forward in the development of Nigeria’s maritime infrastructure.

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