In the News:
NIGERIAN DREDGING & TRANSPORTATION DIGEST
Transport Minister Lists Gains of River Niger Dredging as States Give Approval.
: "The dredging is expected to improve navigation as the exercise will create an aquatic highway, which would attract more activities in terms of conveyance of goods and persons through the waterways. The project will lead to increased carrying capacity of goods as the carrying capacity of barges and tanker barges are much more than those of trailers and other road based vehicles. ..”
With these words the Transport Minister, Alhaji Ibrahim Bio, summed up the many benefits of dredging the River Niger from Baro to Warri. He was speaking at an interactive meeting between him and transport commissioners from Delta, Edo, Niger, Imo, Kogi, Rivers and Bayelsa states in Abuja in May. The parley was to facilitate the needed approval of the project from the states to be impacted by the 572 kilometres dredging project. The director in charge of EIA at the Federal Ministry of Environment, Dr. Oluwole Ameyan, was also at this meeting and gave approval to the project on the condition that the initial EIA must be revalidated to take care of any variations since the first EIA was done some years ago.
Alhaji Bio demonstrated the benefits of the dredging project by comparing the costs of haulage done by road and via the waterways. In his words:
“The capacity of most barges is 1,000 tonnes upwards, which consists of more than 33 trailers of 30 tonnes each. When the River Niger is dredged, it will improve economic activities in the adjoining communities as it will bring increased shipping activities along the dredged channels. Commerce would be enhanced and employment will be generated especially along the port areas. It is obvious that this project when completed will ensure cheaper and safer means of transportation. A 1,000 tonnes barge carrying goods from Port-Harcourt to Onitsha is expected to consume less than half the quantity of fuel as would a trailer carrying only 30 tonnes of goods for the same distance. When the cost is distributed among units of goods, it must be noted that the prices will definitely come down. It should be noted that carrying these goods in a dredged channel is also safer since probability of accident is negligible..."
The dredging project is expected to cost about N35 billion in the current phase and involves deepening and widening at various segments of the route and continuous maintenance dredging thereafter. Four companies have been awarded the contracts which were divided into lots. Fung Tai Nigeria Limited was awarded the first slot while Dredging International got slot two. Lots three and four were awarded to Van Oord while Williams Lloyds Nigeria Limited got the last of the slot. Different consultants have been appointed to oversee the various contractors’ operations. They are AIMS Consultant Nigeria Limited, Royal Haskonig, Dredging and Marine International, Enplang Group and Jayuta International Limited. The total cost of this supervision to the federal government is N1.2 billion.
The Minister told the transport commissioners that the contractors have been mobilized and prayed for their intervention to ensure that they are not hindered in any way during the course of their operations.
Transport commissioners from the states on their part generally supported the project though some made extra demands, like the commissioner from Delta state, Penakeme Benafa, who pleaded that the River Escravos be included in the works to deepen it so that big ships can come into the Warri port, while the commissioner from River State asked if wreck removal would be included in the dredging schedule.
According to Benafa, "I want to thank the minister and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for this project. Delta State will be affected by this because we have about nine local governments along the River Niger. The dredging will definitely affect our fishing activities since our livelihood depends on fishing. The water will be polluted and we drink from the river. How are we going to be getting drinking water? The Escravos channel needs to be dredged for big ships to come into the ports".
The Ijaw youths who attended the meeting also weighed in with their views. According to one Beki Apera who is the president of Bayelsa Youth Federation, "we once opposed the dredging, but I will now go home to convince our youths because we have been properly briefed and informed about the dredging. We will tell them not to kidnap while the dredging last because it is of benefit to us"
The Commissioner for Transport in Edo State commended the Federal Government for the dredging project saying it holds benefits for the host communities.
Mrs. Comfort Chinwe Chukwu, Commissioner for Works and Transport in Imo State, also supported the initiative. She said "While I commend the Federal Government for this laudable project, I want to suggest that there is need for sensitisation in order to disabuse the minds of the local residents".
The Rivers State Transport Commissioner pledged support. He said that "The dredging of the River Niger has been in the pipeline for sometime now, but if the Federal Government wants to do it now, we have no choice than to support it even if it will have some negative effect on our communities since the gains will far outweigh the disadvantages. But we want to know if the dredging will include the removal of wrecks from the waterway".
Bio had earlier told the state commissioners that the contract for the dredging work had already been awarded and contractors mobilised, adding that it would come with some other component like the construction of river ports in Baro, Lokoja, Idah, the rehabilitation of the river port at Onitsha and the construction of Gulu-Baro road to provide access to Abuja.
"The benefit derivable from the project when completed cannot be quantified and this should be part of the attraction why your state governments should assist the Federal Government in ensuring that the project is not unnecessarily hindered in any form or manner by either restive youths or the so called militants"
The transport minister said a distance of 572 kilometres would be dredged along the river, adding that it would be followed by a constant maintenance dredging.
Since President Obasanjo awarded the new phase of this huge dredging in 2007, it has faced myriad problems including funding constraints, a litigation sponsored by the Ijaw National Congress against the Federal Government citing EIA concerns and the general cynicism of a nation which has gone through this road before during the junta of General Sani Abacha when the Petroleum Special Task Force contracted some foreign firms to achieve the same project. That effort failed and some of the monies paid to the firms were recovered when the civilian administration came on stream and the NIWA was tasked to re-stream the project.
This is the background to the wait-and-see attitude of many observers of the River Nigerian dredging project. A few other professionals citing the huge technical competence and due diligence requirement to achieve the project on a long term have reminded the nation that once dredged and not maintained the huge funds committed to the capital dredging would have been lost due to the constancy of siltation along this very active river channel.
On the socio-political side of things, concerns have been raised whether the orgy of militancy and kidnapping would leave the contractors well enough alone to accomplish their tasks in these environments that are quite hidden from modern civilization and instant communication. Presently any arrangements for extra security for the local and expatriate experts needed to do the job are being held close to the chest of the government and implementers of this grand project.
Consortium plan $7.5bn high speed rail from Lagos to N’Delta
Oracle Nigeria Limited, a wholly owned indigenous company, is proposing to build a high speed train that will connect Lagos and the Niger Delta region, a project estimated to cost about $7.5bn
High speed trains operating in Europe and Asia reach speeds of up to 300km per hour, and have been seen as safe, efficient, reliable, and comfortable in travelling distances generally between 150km and 1,000km apart.
The Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of Oracle, Mr. Emmanuel Ehiemua has said in Lagos that the project would be funded through “a mix of private capital/equity and public funding/guarantees”, saying that funding sources would come from regional development banks, Africa Development Bank and ECOWAS Fund.
He said private funding sources will be from major Nigerian banks and other financial institutions.
According to Ehiemuwa, “We have had this vision since 2001, when it was first suggested to the last administration. This vision is the construction of a high speed rail link from Lagos to the Niger Delta in a journey time of about four hours. The proposed corridor for the HSR is Lagos, Ondo, Edo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Abia, Imo, Akwa Ibom and Cross River states.”
He said envisaged travelling time from Lagos to Calabar will not exceed four hours, including stops.
Senate Accuses Julius Berger of illegal granite export
The Senate Committee on Solid Minerals has accused construction giant Julius Berger Nigeria (JBN) of illegal export of granite from a quarry site in Ebonyi state without following due process. This was contained in its report after an investigative tour of solid minerals locations in the country.
The committee is led by Senator George Sekibo (PDP, Rivers East).
According to the report, “Julius Berger Nigeria (JBN) has granite quarry sites in Ebonyi and the company is suspected to be exporting the granites abroad.’’
It also observed that there have been illegal mining by unknown persons in another mining site in Eyimgba also in Ebonyi state.
These illegal miners, according to the committee, included the villagers who had besieged the mine sites rich in zinc and lead.
But countering the report, Mr. Clement Illoba, JBN head of corporate affairs, denied the allegation saying, “There is no truth in the allegation’’.
He said the company is a responsible corporate organization adding that it would continue to be a law abiding corporate entity.
The Senate committee has been on a country wide tour of mine sites to investigate the utilization of the N1.8 billion ($120 million) loan sourced from the World Bank as solid mineral fund by the immediate past administration.
Artisanal, Small-scale miners to benefit from $10m grant
The Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and officials of the Miners Association of Nigeria have, in Abuja, agreed to jointly select beneficiaries of the $10m provided as grant for artisanal and small-scale miners in the $120m facility granted the Federal Government by the World Bank.
The Association’s interim president President, Dr. Kola Ojo led the group to meet with of the Mineral Resources Project’s Management Unit of the Ministry in what is being called a milestone in the sector.
According to Ojo, ”In the past, the ministry insisted that they will select the beneficiaries and we disagreed. But now, they have agreed to carry us along.”
It will be recalled that the miners and the ministry had been at logger heads over the administration of the $10m grant.
Boatmen hold Governor Suswan’s convoy hostage
Men who ferry passengers across River Kastina-Ala at the Buruku crossing point in Benue state, Monday went wide as they held hostage part of Governor Gabriel Suswan’s convoy to press for payment for their services.
The Governor, who led a convoy of over 20 vehicles, was crossing to Buruku to continue the journey to Makurdi from his Logo community where he visited to commission two electricity projects, one in Mchia, and the other in Wende, when part of his convey fell into the hands of the boatmen.
Suswam who was the first to board one of the wooden boats, touched down at the other bank and directed his Senior Special Assistant on special duties, Mr. Tsavasaa to pay N21, 000 to the boatmen. The governor left as soon as his security vehicles with occupants also crossed to join him.
But Joseph Tsavsaa who was detailed to pay for all the vehicles on the convoy, only settled for a few and returned to his waiting car and speed off to join the Governor who was already on the way.
Tsavsaa’s departure provoked the men who rose in protest leading to the decision to deny access for the remaining members of the convoy to drive out of the boats.
Their leader, Nathaniel Tyav, said they were demanding payment for services rendered, and not for alms, since according to him, the boatman of Buruku are self- employed.
The remaining part of the convoy with most of the occupants including the Commissioner of sports and youths development, Mr. Benjamin Vembe, the Governor’s special adviser on media and public affairs, Mr. Cletus Akwaya, and his counterpart on boundary matters, Mr. Titus Madugu; the ministry for rural development and cooperatives, Mrs. Elizabeth Shuluwa, and the chairman of Ukum local governor area, Mr. David Sevav were held in the boats for over 30 minutes before the Governor’s personal assistant, Mr. Terna Kenge, who was also a victim, completed the payment.
Terna Kenge later pleaded with the protesting boatmen for understanding, explaining that the Governor did not run away from his responsibility since he directed full payment before leaving the bank of the river.
FG Releases Jetties to Lagos State.
The Federal Government has handed over four jetties formerly belonging to the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) in Lagos to the Lagos State Government.
This perhaps forms part of resolution of the lingerging face-off between NIWA and the Lagos State over control of inland waterways in the state. Lagos state has been trying to kickstart waterways transportation as a support to congested Lagos highways.
The jetties which had not been in regular use are located at Marina, Ijora, Oworonsoki and Ajegunle.
A precursor to this handover was a series of meetings between the Federal Government and Lagos state under the auspices of a Joint Committee on Federal Government-Lagos State Relations set up by President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.
In a joint public statement issued by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Alhaji Mahmud Yayale Ahmed for the Federal Government (Co-Chairman) and the Attorney-General of Lagos State, Mr. Olasupo Shasore, SAN, (Co-Chairman) said, they said,: "The federal and the Lagos state governments will work together in clearing of abandoned shipwrecks and vessels along the state waterways, using LASG to implement where necessary", said Ahmed and Shasore.
"The FG-LASG Standing Committee, whose tenure is 12 months, will continue to work in earnest under the co-chairmanship of SGF, Mahmud Yayale Ahmed and the Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Mr. Olasupo Shashore, while looking forward to future achievements."
Lagos-Ibadan Expressway Privatized; To cost N89bn.
The Federal Executive Council in mid-April awarded a 25-year concession to Messrs Bi-Courtney Consortium to reconstruct and manage the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway under a develop, build, operate and transfer arrangement. The project will cost N89.5bn.
The aim of the measure is to upgrade the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway to international road standards while Bi-Courtney in turn recoups its investment through the administration of toll gates, and other charges on road support services such as trailer parks and rest areas.
However, the Federal Government plans to regulate the administration of the toll gates and other charges to be administered by the concessionaire.
Available information shows that the rehabilitation and expansion work on the expressway would lead to temporary closure of the road.
Informing media men in Abuja after the FEC meeting, Information and Communication Minister, Prof. Dora Akunyili, who stood in with Works and Housing Minister, Dr. Hassan Lawal, said the Sagamu Expressway and the Ota, Abeokuta road, would serve as alternative routes in the event of the closure of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway.
The FEC meeting was chaired by President Umaru Yar’Adua. According to Akunyili, “After exhaustive debates and considerable input from the recently inaugurated Infrastructure Regulatory Concession Commission, the Federal Executive Council has approved the reconstruction, expansion and modernization of the Lagos-Ibadan Expressway, which is estimated to cost about N89,533,688,879.84 with a concession period of 25 years. The project is to be executed under a DBOT (Develop, Build, Operate and Transfer) scheme with 100 per cent funding by the concessionaire. The investor’s cost and return on investment will be recovered via tolls, subject to regulatory guidance from the Federal Government and other charges on road support services such as trailer parks and rest areas.
Speaking further she said that “To ensure the highway is in good condition throughout the concession period, routine and periodic maintenance will be carried out to a minimum level of service under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Works, Housing and Urban Development.”
The concessionaire would modernise the highway by providing services and facilities to improve safety and security of motorists such as vehicular parking areas for heavy duty vehicles; rest areas with eateries and conveniences; emergency communications equipment and clinics and emergency ambulances.
Other facilities to be provided by the consortium are electronic traffic control and enforcement measures; highway lighting between 7pm and 6am through the installation of a gas-fired plant; overhead pedestrian bridges at designated locations; modern toll points with electronic tolling system; and modern road signs and lane markings.
The scope of work includes the full reconstruction of the existing carriageways from Lagos to Ibadan; the provision of two additional lanes in each direction of travel between Lagos and Sagamu interchange/junction, making it four lanes in each direction of travel; the provision of associated facilities for the security and welfare of road users, free flow of traffic and toll collection.
This is the second major public infrastructure under the management of Bi-Courtney. With the Presidential Adviser on Legal Matters, Dr. Wale Babalakin, as its chairman, bi-Courtney is also handling the Murtala Muhammed Airport, Lagos Terminal (MMA2) project under a Build, Operate and Transfer arrangement.
Concerning fears that road users might eventually bear the cost of the commercialisation of the expressway, Works Minister Lawal said government was not unmindful of the situation and would ensure fair charges. To ensure a fair administration of charges on the road, he said a team of experts had been set up to meet and review the toll gate charge at periodic intervals.
He said the Federal Government developed the Public Private Partnership policy with the aim of encouraging the involvement of the private sector in the management and financing of the vast network of federal roads. He added that the objective is to tap into the huge managerial and financial capability in the private sector of the economy in the sustenance of not only the road sector, but other assets in the federation.
Bi-Courtney on its part has unfolded plans for the project ahead of a reintroduction of toll plazas on the road. The Executive Director of the firm, Dr. Niyi Odunlami, said that the reconstruction work would be carried out with minimal disruption to the free flow of traffic, adding that “During the construction, we want to ensure that traffic is not in any way hampered.”
The firm is understood to have arranged consultative meetings with the stakeholders, including religious groups, which hold crusades in the area; transport unions and relevant state governments.
Duration of the construction work has not been ascertained, as well as the toll charge for various users of the road.
The 110-kilometres Lagos-Ibadan Expressway which cost N170m to construct was inaugurated in August 1978 to link Lagos with Ibadan and other parts of the western states and other parts of the country leading to the eastern and northern regions.
Toll gates initially installed to recover parts of its construction costs were dismantled nearly 10 years ago when the federal government began implementing other policies of road maintenance.