From left: Managing Director, Nigeria Ports Authority, Hadiza Usman; President Muhammadu Buhari and Minister of Transportation, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, during the opening ceremony of the 2018 International Association for Ports and Harbours Conference in Abuja yesterday
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday gave a directive for the provision of rail infrastructure at all the nation’s seaports as a catalyst for trade between the southern and northern parts of the country.
President Buhari gave the directive while declaring open the International Association of Ports and Harbour’s (IAPH) Africa Regional Conference in Abuja.
The President expressed the Federal Government’s commitment to rebuilding infrastructure that would complement the means of transportation from the ports to the hinterland.
He said: “We understand that this inter-connectivity will improve the country’s economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan”
“So for starters, I have directed that every port must have the complement of rail infrastructure”
“Our projection is that by the end of year 2021, we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route”.
“The same level of serious attention is being given to the improvement of road infrastructure”, he added.
The President revealed that his administration is also paying attention to development of inland waterways to complement rail infrastructure and aid movement of cargo to the hinterland.
“Furthermore, we have stimulated activities on our inland waterways. Major inland river channels are being dredged with adequate channel markings for ease of navigation through the Eastern and Northern parts of the country”.
He told the gartering which comprises of port industry players from across Africa and beyond including global organizations, that : “That is the best way to go if we plan to remain competitive in the maritime industry.’’
He, therefore, implored the participants to see themselves as people opportune to stand in positions of responsibility on behalf of Africa, and urged them to at the end of their deliberations to come up with resolutions that would benefit the entire continent.
“I say this because the maritime sector where all of you are fortunate to be active stakeholders is central to the facilitation of trade and the total integration of African economies,’’ he added.
Buhari also acknowledged that, that virtually all African countries with port operations have the same challenges in evacuating cargoes from their ports.
“Nations in Africa are also largely connected by the same developmental challenges as well as large human capital and natural endowments. It behoves on us therefore to work together and deploy our resources towards solving those issues that militate against us”
“Now, one of the resources that we can proudly speak about as Africans is our maritime endowments. A situation in which at least 39 of the 54 countries on the continent are either littoral or island states makes the formulation of policies for the effective utilisation of our waters for the growth of our economies expedient”.
“This, in a sense, seems to be a divine ordination of our desire for continental integration. Even though we have physical national boundaries that separate us, the waters are a natural source of connectivity and they seem like a subtle message that we must work together for the good of all our countries.
“This is why there could be no better time than now to hold this conference. The theme of the conference: African Ports and Hinterland Connetivity is itself a testament of the determination of the organisers of the conference to, collectively seek lasting solutions to the challenges that port operations face on the continent.
“After the issues of adequate security and transparency, the one other important factor deciding the competitiveness of ports is that efficiency with which cargoes are evacuated to and from the ports. This, without doubt is an area in which port operations in Africa needs a lot of intervention”, he added.
In his remarks, the Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, said the theme of the conference, “African Ports and Hinterland Connectivity,” was in line with the commitment of the Buhari administration’s commitment to optimising the comparative advantage the Nigeria’s maritime endowments conferred on other parts of the world.
He disclosed that the federal government planned to develop a multi model system of transportation in all its ports across the country.
Earlier in her welcome address, the Managing director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, Hadiza Bala-Usman expressed the hope that the theme for the conference would enable delegates to examine the African ports sector with a view to providing solutions to challenges facing them.
She said that all African Ports, Port Operators and Corridor Management Organisations and hinterland countries, as well as IAPH Member Organisations were invited to attend the conference and to take advantage of the learning and networking opportunities available.
According to her, the participants at the meeting, which is the first ever IAPH Africa Regional Conference, will work closely to build the capacity and competitiveness in Africa’s hinterland connectivity.