By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
The newly-appointed Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Senator Olorunimbe Mamora has pledged that during his tenure, the lingering dispute between his agency (representing the federal government) and the Lagos State government (represented by the Lagos State Waterways Authority, LASWA) over the management and supervision of activities on the inland waterways will be resolved amicably to the satisfaction of all. Rather than toeing the stiff and tortuous legal route as is the case presently, he stated, resort to out-of-court settlement remains the magic wand needed to put the issue behind for the interest of effective and seamless inland waterways management in Nigeria and the national economy.
Senator Mamora was contributing as a discussant to a special presentation on the topic, Effective Maritime Security and Safety for Sustainable Maritime Development during the conference in Lagos to commemorate the World Maritime Day being celebrated by the International Maritime Organization, IMO.
It is recalled that for over four years, there has been a protracted dispute between Lagos State and the Federal government over who holds the constitutional mandate and authority to oversee operations on the inland waterways that are situated within the territorial boundary of the state and beyond.
Senator Mamora who described Nigeria as a blessed nation through her waterways, said that transportation through waterways would no doubt reduce pressure on Nigerian roads.
According to him, when passed into law, the NIWA Amendment Act currently before the National Assembly would ensure a more effective and operationally efficient NIWA.
In a similar development, NIWA has reassured Nigerians of its determination to midwife safe and economically- viable inland waterways in the country. The NIWA Board Chairman, Vice Adm. Ishaya Ibrahim (Rtd) gave the assurance Wednesday when he led members of the board on an inspection tour of the agency’s Port Harcourt Area Office. Ibrahim, a one-time Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), also noted that economically viable inland waterways in Nigeria can only be achieved when the waterways are charted and made secure.
He observed that Nigeria is sitting on a gold mine with various waterways that could boost safer and cheaper public transportation. “We are sitting on a goldmine, but we do not know how to mine it. The white men came to Nigeria through the water.
“Any nation bound by water like Nigeria is a blessed nation. We need very little efforts to improve our life as a nation through the waterways.
“But crude oil does not allow us to see the potential. Water is enough to sustain Nigeria. Nations dig canals for water to flow for goods and services to be moved.
“We do not only have canals in Nigeria, but God gave us the waterways and we are abusing them,’’ he said.
The Area Manager of Port Harcourt Office of NIWA, Abdullahi Dabai, in his progress report, described the office as one of the oldest and largest area offices of the agency in Nigeria.