Expert laments neglect of inland waterways development

Transport Policy Analyst and member of the International Association of Waterborne Infrastructure, Lanre Badmus, has decried the Federal Government’s inability to capture inland waterways development in the Infrastructure Support Fund (ISF).

He said already, the institutions responsible for inland waterways development at the Federal and State levels are not well resourced, noting that poor funding has impacted negatively on their regulatory/oversight functions, including manpower development and research.

Badmus said President Bola Tinubu’s approval of the infrastructure support fund for critical areas of the economy, should be an opportunity to prioritise the extensive lagoons, rivers, creeks and other waterways, which is a cost-efficient and eco-friendly mode of transportation, rather than a road.

He said every year, a humongous amount of money is expended by the three tiers of governments on road infrastructure, in which only about 35 per cent of the 200,000km of roads in the country are motor-able.

Badmus recalled the World Bank’s report that revealed the average construction cost of 1km of road in Nigeria to be between N400 million and N1 billion, while that of road maintenance, which is also as high as the cost of building, is between N100 million and N1 billion.

He said less than 10 per cent of this amount is the average investment per kilometer required by an inland waterway, adding that it cost far less to develop the waterways compared to highways and railroads.

According to him, the development of waterborne infrastructure brings more benefits beyond transport, adding that improvement of inland navigation helps damage associated with automobiles and fossil fuels. to reduce flooding, provide reservoirs for electricity and enable all-year farming.

He said other benefits include, the creation of employment, promoting tourism, encouraging trade and industry as well as reducing potential environmental

Badmus said unfortunately, the Federal Ministry of Transportation received an N130.35 billion allocation in the national budget for 2023.

Badmus said the Ministry’s capital expenditure was N85.23 billion for the development and provision of railroads, with N1.14 billion for the development and provision of roads, while a paltry N15 million was for the development and provision of waterways.

He said the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) was allocated N5.397 billion out of the Ministry’s total budget for its personnel and capital expenditures.

Badmus said it is no surprise that NIWA has committed its capital allocation to projects that address waterways protection such as the purchase of boats, wreck removals, and hydrographic surveys, rather than infrastructure development.

He noted that waterways move 10 times the quantity of freight as against the capacity of cargo trucks on the roads, adding that a litre of fuel used on the waterways can transport four times the tonnage that can be carried by road over the same distance.

Badmus noted that countries with major rivers have harnessed their inland waterways into a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly distribution network that enables low production costs, promotes trade and social cohesion.

“In the United States of America, the Mississippi River transports about 175 million tons of freight a year. On the Rhine River that flows from Switzerland through Germany to the North Sea, connecting several industry clusters to the ports of Rotterdam and Antwerp; inland barges move no less than 300 million ton of goods each year.
“In China, the Yangtze River and its tributaries transport 45 per cent of the country’s total freight throughput. The European Union has since established a pan-European inland shipping (E-waterway) network, connecting hundreds of cities and industries regions,” he added.

Speaking on the energy efficiency of inland water transportation, Badmus said Nigeria’s battle against climate change will be well served by making better use of a low-carbon emitting transport mode, which is her inland and coastal waters.

He said inland barges and ferries can be powered by liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), which would reduce the country’s carbon footprints and overall logistics cost for businesses.

Badmus called on other states to copy the Lagos State government that invested in modern ferry terminals, patrol boats and traffic monitoring assets to enhance safety and security on its waters to ease the transfer of goods and passengers.

Badmus called for the development of the 770km Niger River and the over 1,000km Benue River into a national waterway system linked to other river bodies in the north and south of the country.

He said it is also important that Nigeria seeks external help to optimally harness the benefits development of water transportation brings.

Source: The Guardian

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.