The National Inland Waterways Authority ( NIWA) has initiated discussion with the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation ( NNPC ) on how to deliver crude to the refineries through the waterways.
The Acting Managing Director of NIWA, Mr Danaladi Ibrahim, told reporters in Lokoja yesterday that formal discussions with the management of the NNPC on the proposal would begin this week.
Danaladi said NIWA was encouraged to initiate the proposal following the decision to stop the delivery of crude by trucks to the refineries in Port Harcourt, Kaduna and Warri.
He said the NIWA could deliver crude through barges to the refineries, describing the option as cheaper, safe and environment-friendly.
Ibrahim said NIWA also had the capacity to deliver refined products through inland waterways to all states, except Katsina and Kano.
He said the organisation had procured enough tugboats to drive the barges, which were of varying capacities from 300 to 800 tonnes.
The NIWA chief said the organisation had also procured 17 gunboats to guarantee the security of the facilities and personnel involved in the operation.
Ibrahim hoped the proposal would be considered by the NNPC, saying the organisation had taken steps to protect the banks of River Niger.
This is to prevent the dredged channel which was undertaken at a cost of N36 billion from being blocked.
The NIWA chief said the country would reap the benefits of the dredging, saying more companies were ready to use barges to move their products.
Ibrahim suggested the establishment of an inland waterways trust fund.
He said the fund would make it compulsory for stakeholders in the maritime sector to pay a certain percentage of their earnings for the development of inland waterways infrastructure.
Ibrahim said his vision was to unlock the potential of the sector in line with efforts of the government to diversify the economy.
“Our prayer is that the Federal Government should muster the necessary political will to finance it while we provide adequate manpower,” he said.
He also spoke of plans to maintain waterways and develop the waterfront in Lagos, Port Harcourt, Asaba and Warri through a public-private partnership arrangement.