For the umpteenth time, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi has again kicked against the continued operations of the controversial Secured Anchorage Area (SAA) in Lagos.
The SAA in Lagos is a carved-out security area in the approaches to Lagos ports, where ships coming to Lagos can enjoy exclusive security from attacks by pirates. It is provided by Ocean Marine Security Limited (OMSL), at a fee of about US$1,500 per day.
Amaechi stated this during an interactive session with the South East South South Professionals of Nigeria (SESSPN) in Lagos, weekend.
The SESSPN had invited the Minister to address concerns of the people of the South East and South South regions in security, power, economic and social integration and representation in government.
Addressing many issue, the Minister talked about secure anchorage issues and blamed OMSL for delaying the government’s maritime security project from commencing operations.
According to the Minister, the deep blue project which has most of its surveillance equipment already on ground would ensure end-to-end surveillance and safety of Nigeria’s waterways, and would in turn encourage usage of all ports in the South South.
Amaechi told his hosts pointedly that, “the problem with maritime in Nigeria is insecurity. There are rich Nigerians who do bunkering. Next are those who escort vessels, another is the OMSL group who say they are protecting vessels and so on.
“We have a disadvantage where those who are making the money will not allow you provide the security. We have bought equipment for use in securing our waters. The moment I announced it, they reported me everywhere. But we must end it”, Amaechi stated.
On the Onitsha river port, Amaechi said, “Onitsha is a River port, 3.5 metre draft. The only thing that can go there is barge. Port Harcourt and Warri seaport will be the highest. And people still criticize a president that is doing this much for this zone”.
On rail projects and why work has not been done in the South East, Amaechi said, “I hate tribalism. I’ve said this before, for me, I’m Nigerian, and what informs my decision of choosing which rail line to construct at any point in time, is the economics of rail; and currently the economics shows that Lagos to Kano has the capacity to move 30 million tonnes of cargo per year. I do the same analysis for Port Harcourt to Maiduguri, 11 million tonnes. We are currently doing the analysis for Lagos to Calabar to know how many tonnes of cargo can be moved there per year. So we started with the Lagos to Kano rail. President Obasanjo approved it, President Jonathan started construction on it by doing Abuja to Kaduna and President Buhari told us to complete all previous projects.
“Now, we are applying for $11b loan to construct Lagos to Calabar rail. There was no design for Port Harcourt-Maiduguri. We knew that the first thing to do was to commence a feasibility study, after that we did the design. It’s now they’ll start to do the site drawing. In that three months that they are doing that, you’ll start shouting again, why are they not constructing? You forget that Ibadan to Kano, they are just finishing the design now, that’s why they’ve not started construction.
“Back to Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, the first thing was the instruction from the President that all rails in Nigeria must be standard gauge. So we did a standard gauge design. We went to Bonny to do studies and we did that study up to Maiduguri. I did a feasibility study that brought it between $14billion to $11 billion. When we finished, we got approval from the President, but I realised that we may not get the money in this government. I changed my course, and I said, while we are looking for money for the standard gauge for Port Harcourt-Maiduguri, let me ask for money to reconstruct the narrow-gauge at $3.1billion. And the President after much argument, accepted. After sometime, he agreed, that we can proceed with the narrow-gauge, while seeking for money to construct the standard gauge.
“At least I’m sure that before we leave government we would have done up to 80 percent of that rail. Also, there was no line to Owerri, I added Owerri to the Port Harcourt-Maiduguri rail design, because of the Industrial Park and the University of Transportation in Ubima”, Amaechi said.