Minister of transport, Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio has accused the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo of wasting a whooping $56Million on dredging of channels and waterways in the country.
The minister, who made the disclosure in Calabar last week while on a tour of Calabar port, disclosed that he made the discovery in the handing over notes which were given to him by his predecessor, Prince Okechukwu Emeka.
Although Alhaji Bio did not give details of which channels and inland waterways that the money was voted for, he however said that the much expected dredging of Calabar channel was surveyed in 2003, but regretted that not much has been achieved since then.
“During the handing over and taking over, I also realize that Calabar port was surveyed in 2003 for dredging and dredging commenced in 2006. However, due to some reasons, technical or whatever, I don’t know, the dredging was not completed”, he stated.
Apart form the Calabar channel, government had at various times in the last nine years declared that it was going to dredge the lower Niger river from Niger state cutting across about nine states to Bayelsa state, but this has never materialized.
Confirming that the Calabar channel dredging project had been abandoned, Bio however assured that the project would be revisited in 2009 and lamented that it was regrettable that after spending so much money, no benefit can be derived form what has been done and accused the contractor of performing below expectations.
“There is need for us to revisit again and dredge the whole channel of about 84 kilometers so that Calabar port will once again be very vibrant.
“Provisions have been made in the 2009 budget and it for us now to start the process, because we need to carry out a survey of the whole channel once again to be able to access and know the exact volume that we need to remove for the port to be effectively put to use”, he stressed.
The minister confirmed that the government will commence the dredging project before the end of the second quarter to enable bigger vessels call at the port, even as he expressed optimism that if properly positioned to receive bigger vessels, Calabar port can take the pressure off Lagos ports thus helping to ensure that Lagos ports are no longer congested.
Bio also said that it was regrettable that a recent directive to shipping agents to divert their vessels to ports in the eastern operational flank of Nigerian Ports Authourity was not obeyed citing the unabated spate of militant activities within the Niger Delta region of the country.
“We think that they will find the eastern ports convenient. We have already directed that they should be diverted. We have given that directive almost a month ago, but the implementation is what they are not willing to do. So the issue of diversion has been authorized, but they are raising some issues, one is based on security, they are saying
That in the eastern ports zone, there is security implication due to militancy activities, the other area is the depth of the channel to be able to accommodate big vessels”, he confirmed.