BUHARI’S FOOTPRINTS ON WATERWAYS
By FEMI ADESINA
It’s an oxymoron, isn’t it? You can’t physically see footprints on water, but then, that’s what President Muhammadu Buhari has done with the country’s waterways. He has planted his footprints on them, and they are some of the things that will stand him in good stead as he exits May 29, next year.
Managing Director of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Chief (Dr) George Moghalu, was our guest at the 52nd edition of the weekly State House Press Briefing last week, and what an eye opener it was. It’s not only in infrastructure, security, anti-corruption, economic diversification, and the like, that President Buhari is making waves, he’s also doing so on water. Inland Waterways.
Moghalu is the third Chief Executive of NIWA under this administration. First was Mr Boss Mustapha, who proceeded to become Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) from the position. Next was Dr Olorunnimbe Mamora, who also got appointed Minister of State for Health, and is now substantive Minister at the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Then came the incumbent, and between them all, under the inspiration of the President, they have generated benign waves at our inland waterways.
What is today known as NIWA began in 1957 under the colonial government as a department under the Federal Ministry of Transport. In 1997, it metamorphosed into NIWA, and commenced operations in 1998.
The statutory functions include; to improve and develop inland waterways for navigation, development of infrastructural facilities for national inland waterways connectivity with the economic centers using river ports as nodal points for inter-modal exchanges, among others.
What imprints have now been made on the sands of time (or rather, the waters of time, if you like) under the Buhari administration? Many, and many more, as recounted by Moghalu.
These include provision of ports and jetties at terminal facilities round the country, acquisition of dredgers, maintenance dredging of major rivers, including the majestic River Niger, partnership with the private sector on channel management, regular hydrographic surveys of waterways for safe navigation, wrecks removal master plan, supply and installation of navigational aids in all the dredged priority routes, provision of river guide to enable safe navigation within the inland waterways.
Others are; improvement of fleet capacity such as tugboats, passenger ferries, houseboats, patrol boats, barges, ambulances etc. There is also establishment of search and rescue coordination centers to promptly respond to emergencies, enforcement of navigational laws, improvement of the capacity of NIWA Police and other security agencies to provide security along the waterways, training and certification of boat captains, and many others.
Moghalu sourced the achievements to encouragement by President Buhari, who would not just give you an assignment, but also give you the wherewithal and freedom to work. All he wants are results. Simple.
You can see infrastructural projects in bold relief. Roads, you see, same for bridges, airports, rail network, and others. But when you sail on waterways, you may not know that quiet background work has been done to make your voyage safe. That is what NIWA does, and that is the support the President gives.
Accomplishments between 2015 and now constitute a very long list. Just a little more of them: shore protection works at Marine Base Waterfront, Asaba, Delta State, Ndoni Waterfront in Rivers State, maintenance dredging of River Niger, River Nun, and other major rivers, extension of jetty landing platforms, installation of Anchorage on River Niger to improve the berthing facility at Lokoja jetty, buoying of River Niger from Baro to Lokoja, to Onitsha, and to Warri. The list is really as long as a bailiff’s papers.
For the now and immediate future, strategic initiatives by NIWA include expansion of infrastructure, purchase of modern river crafts, recruiting of technical staff, strengthening of the Police Command, functioning of ports at optimal capacity, and many others.
Some people work with all body movement and pyrotechnics, some others work quietly, unobtrusively. President Buhari is of the latter mould. Without fanfare, devoid of noise, he built the Second River Niger Bridge. The Loko-Oweto Bridge. Bodo-Bonny bridges and road. Lagos-Ibadan Expressway. Rail networks. Airports. He utilized and made our inland waterways more effective and efficient. Plus many more. Won’t good people miss him when he breasts the tape? This quiet performer. We will sure do. But we are delighted that he has done his best for Nigeria, despite distractions from all fronts.
*Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity