The newspaper article below gives an indication that although there is already a Federal Government Agency that caters to managing water resources in an integrated way (Nigeria Integrated Water Resources agency – NIWRA), the major source of surface water resources in the country is not yet being managed in an integrated manner. Could this be due to the fact that this new agency is just about four years old (established in 2007 and just backed by a bill in 2011), and its impact is yet to be felt by various stakeholders in the water sector?
In most developed countries, major rivers are used for multipurposes and all stakeholders in the valley of such rivers are involved in their management. From the article below it is clear that the power company is not helping issues by not coordinating water releases from its hydroelectric installations with the activities of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) to ensure the minimum flow required for navigational purposes during the dry season. The activities of NIWA and all other stakeholders in Nigeria’s part of the Niger River Basin need to be coordinated by NIWRA.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Environment should be involved in the management of the River Niger as well as all riparian States’ Ministries of Environment and Water Resources.
The stakeholders in the Niger Valley need to be on top of advocacy campaign against pollution. It is also important that it is high time something was done about enacting the Nigeria Water Law and Environmental Law so that a law exists that would take care of polluters although it is one thing to enact a law while it is another thing to enforce its statutes. Enforcement of laws requires much more than putting the law together. The government will need to do all that is necessary with respect to enforcement when the Bill becomes law.
River Niger is an international water course and Nigeria happens to be at its most downstream part. Diversions from its upstream part will surely affect what is available for navigational as well as other uses down the river’s course to the sea.
NIWA needs to be aware of the statutes of the international compacts about River Niger and the regulatory roles of NIWRA and the Ministry of Environment. By so doing it will know where to direct its concerns about factors adversely affecting navigability of the Niger.
“Dumped tyres, plastic waste threatening River Niger”
by Shehu Abubakar, Weekly Trust, Saturday, 24 March, 2012
The dumping of refuse into the River Niger, especially tyres, plastic containers and sacks constitute a serious threat to smooth navigation in the river as unwanted islands are built around the dumps, General Manager engineering services of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Engineer Mike Dike said. “The two worst offenders causing serious siltation are tyres and sacks and these are things people dump into the river very often. If you dump tyres and sacks and live them there for a year, an Island will develop,” he said.
One of the contractors dredging the river, Mr. Abiye Amadi the Site Manager of Van Oord Nigeria Limited said shortage of water in the river, especially during dry season, is also hampering smooth navigation. “The blame of the acute shortage of water in the river during dry season should go to irregular release of water by Jebba and Kainji dams that ought to be feeding the river,” he said.
Dike said the third-year maintenance dredging of the river could not commence because the water level is now low, adding, “When we carry out the maintenance dredging now, we may not get the desired result. We have to allow the flood season to come first because the flood will allow all these dumping, tyres, sacks, plastics and all that. Then after that, you will see that the channel has hilted up. So, we now take up the maintenance dredging. We’re suppose to do first, second and third year maintenance after the capital dredging. But because of problem of funding, we only planned to do the first and second year maintenance.”
On the issue of effective use of the river for commercial maritime operation, Amadi said the river is not a popular mode of transportation in the north, adding, “But when you go to Ndoni (in Rivers State), you will see many boats and barges moving. You will see barges taking oil from one oil field after Abo down to Port Harcourt and Warri. There are about 10 oil tankers using the dredged portion of the river daily.” He added: “Even down here, there are barges moving tiles from Ajaokuta to Onitsha. There are some businessmen, young guys moving a trailer load of yam in their boat from Benue to Baro. They said it takes them five days because of the Benue River that is yet to be dredged. But once they link up with the dredged river Niger, they have smooth sail. When the river ports at Baro and Lokoja become operational, the activity in this part will also increase,” he said.
But the Chief Executive Officer of Fung Tai that dredged the Niger Delta portion of the river from Warri to Bifurcation, Sir Isaac Chukwu, said the channel in the LOT he dredged has enough water in the river. He said in some areas the channel is as deep as three times what his company was asked to dredge as even in the dry season when the water level in the river is low. He told Weekly Trust: “My company is making a program now in Lagos where the products of our industries there in Lagos can be transported and marketed through the river to the east and north parts of the country. We are planning to use flat base vessels for the transportation of our products. But beyond that, government should hasten to develop more river ports along the Niger and also invest in the maritime transportation as they are doing in the case of Government Mass Transit Buses on road transportation. Investors will have confidence to invest when government is involved. When we start transporting goods through the river, the prices of goods will come down because it will not only be cheaper to transport them through the river but is also safer. NIWA also has to make a lot of promotion on the inland waterways because that is going to give them a lot of revenue.”
But Captain Suleiman Okpanachi and Dr. Saleh Mohammed said Nigerians may not be comfortable to invest their money in the inland waterways transportation business when government has not shown any form of commitment by buying passengers boats, vessels and barges, so private businesses can follow suit.
Okpanachi said maritime transportation is capital intensive. He added: “Government must show commitment by introducing the transport system physically. That way, people will be prompted to invest in that business.”
Dr. Mohammed said it is a good venture that if well-managed can be able to serve as a major source of revenue generation. “The management of that sector may be the problem going by the trend, but it is a very wise decision dredging the river,” he said.