Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara on Thursday blamed vested interests for sabotaging the dredging of the country’s inland waterways by successive administrations.
Dogara made the assertion when he received the Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Senator Adeleke Olurunnimbe Mamora in his office.
The speaker disclosed that in the last three years, he had taken up the issue of implementing the national transport master plan at different times and at the highest levels with different people but his efforts had hit a brick wall.
At a point, according to him, he was told that the Chinese had handed down a negative verdict on the project, saying it was not feasible and useless.
Recalling how the national transport master plan was conceived by the Obasanjo administration, Dogara said that “I was part of the development of the national transportation master plan.
“I don’t know what has happened to that; how I wish we implemented that plan, by now we would have gone very far because the national transportation master plan vision is a seamless integration of a multi modal transportation into one hub.
“And I think at that time Baro in Niger state had been identified as the centre for the hub. It is serviced by a railway that is connected to Minna and all you need to do is to construct a road and airport that will ensure connectivity and you will have access to the Atlantic Ocean through the River Niger, so everything was supposed to be put together in one place.
“I am aware that some people in the sector are of the opinion that we do not need the inland waterways transportation in this country.
“I have had discussions with some of them, like I said I have been advocate of this for long, and they said that the Chinese said it is useless, even if we develop it.
“But that’s the irony, if you look at other countries that do not even have this potential for inland waterways transportation, they have even done man-made inland waterways and even lakes, they have created artificial ones.
While in this country, having been blessed with this wonderful resources by Mother Nature, by God we tend to look the other way and believe they will not serve any useful purpose.
“There are some people within the sector who do not want some of these initiatives to see the light of day. But because I’ve converted myself so if they are fighting against you,
they are fighting against me, and it would be very difficult for them to succeed because of the good will that propels us,” the Speaker further assured the NIWA delegation.
He also highlighted some of the values that can be generated from inland waterways transportation saying, “Imagine the millions of metric tonnes of goods that would be lifted off our highways and put on the berth of ships that would ply these inland waterways.
“That would mean our roads can last 50 years as it is in other climes. That would also translate into safety on our highways as well”.
The speaker said it was in realization of the importance of the sector that the House passed the NIWA amendment bill which repealed moribund laws governing the agency’s activities to enable it achieve its mandate which is now awaiting concurrence by the Senate.