Awka — Traders in Onitsha have expressed excitement over the announcement by the Managing Director of Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Mr. George Moghalu that plans to concession the Onitsha river port were at advanced stage.
Moghalu spoke during a meeting between NIWA management and the business community in Onitsha, during a stakeholders' meeting tagged: 'The economic viability of Onitsha river port.'
He said the meeting was held to assure the people that with the arrival of the first ever barge in the port, 42 years after its creation, the authority is working to ensure that the port is concessioned.
"We are now more determined than ever to make to make the waterways navigable to facilitate marine transportation across the country.
"In view of the growing transportation need, particularly moving bulk commodities, containerised produce into the hinterlands, our country needs to focus on the development and harness the benefits of inland Waterways.
"The process to get Onitsha River Port as a port of final destination is on. The concessioning arrangement has gone far. When it becomes a port of final destination, what it means is that you can send your goods straight from China or any part of the world to Onitsha and also do the paper works and also clear it in Onitsha," he explained.
Moghalu, noted that with the arrival of the first ever barge in the Onitsha Port, he would ensure that the concessioning plan is followed up as it would decongest the road, reduce accident and create more jobs among others.
"We have it on good record that most of the barges coming into the country are from the South East. We receive over three million containers in this part of the country every year. What it means is that if the Onitsha Port become fully operational, three million trailers carrying containers would be off the road," he said.
The traders who were ecstatic with joy, lamented that the troubles faced by an average importer in the south east has hindered their growth.
Speaking on behalf of the Onitsha business community, chairman of Onitsha chamber of commerce, mines and industry, Mr. Chris Ukachukwu stated that the future of Onitsha port is very important to traders in the zone.
"We have been looking for ways to seek full utilization of the port, and it is with joy that we welcome the berthing of a barge in Onitsha port from Onne port.
"We call on the government to intensify efforts to make the port fully operational as it would reduce traffic on the road, create employment and make Onitsha economically viable again. Of all the economic hubs left for us by the colonial masters, only Onitsha has remained held down. We call on government to speed up plans.