Abuja — The President Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government yesterday ordered the Lagos State Government to immediately hands off the waterways in the state, noting that it's the responsibility of the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to oversee the sector.
The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, who disclosed this while featuring on a television programme monitored by THISDAY, revealed that the Lagos State government does not have any right on the Nigerian inland waterways.
Amaechi argued that the constitution is clear on the issue and that the law is clear on the ownership structure, noting that "when there is a vacuum, it has to be filled, so Lagos State decided to fill that."
The minister stated that the court had ruled that the federal government must go back to claim that responsibility.
To do that, he added that money could be provided from the budget to buy more vessels and provide inland water services in Lagos, from Victoria Island, for instance, to Apapa which he said would help reduce the road traffic gridlock in the area and refocus on safety.
"The law is very clear about the responsibility of management of waterways. So, why does the Lagos State government want to take it from NIWA? For me, I don't think that port construction at the inland waterways is the solution for now. We have done quite a lot; Onitsha, Baru, Lokoja River ports are ready and are still under-utilised.
"What we should focus on is production. What we are doing at the Ministry of Transport is to provide the logistics to move and transport your goods. So, there is need to harp more on production, because as you produce your goods you create wealth. That is what China has been doing to move forward," he said.
He noted that there was also the need to do capital dredging and maintenance dredging on the waterways and see how many people would be encouraged to move their goods by water, adding that this would create more employment.
The minister also stated that government needed to focus more on cargo tracking, stressing that he was embarrassed at the last maritime stakeholders' meeting when almost all the stakeholders were hammering on tracking.
"I will try to present this at the cabinet so that we can take cargo tracking off the ground," Amaechi said.