How We Are Protecting Our Waterways – Moghalu

NIWA has a world of opportunities to transform the transportation sector in Nigeria, just like what the rail sector is doing. What’s the major challenge in achieving this goal?

I will disappoint you by telling you that funding is not the major challenge, yes, because you can get all the funding you want in the world. And if you don’t know what to do with it. The major challenge I met, when I came into office is that NIWA was underreported. So I considered that a major challenge. But I must also place on record the support we have received from the media. Since I brought that to their knowledge, appeal to them, the media has been quite helpful, I must thank them. Because I don’t know where we would have been if we didn’t get the support we asked for. And they’ve been quite supportive.

Then secondly, the next issue was staff morale. getting everybody to understand my vision, getting my management to understand where I’m coming from. I was coming strictly from the private sector, and coming to the public sector. So you needed to get us to understand ourselves. So for me, addressing the issue of staff morale, and us coming together to understand where we want to take anywhere to go, where we want to be in the next four or five years, we also had to develop a plan, which we anchored on training. If there’s anything, anything that was tough can tell you today is that we learned so much emphasis on training ourselves. I got into the train the trainer program. Having said that, now you cannot look for funding. Like I did say, no nation. Nigeria is not an exception. No nation has all the resources it requires to solve all these problems. No nation. So we are part of this nation.

Therefore, we also must appreciate the fact that the resources available to the government are not as robust as they used to be. That was a time in this country when oil was selling for $130. By the time this administration came into being, oil dropped to about $25- 30 a barrel. So you must consider that. What that translates to is that as the resources available to the government are dropping, you must reflect on the agencies that are in the government. So we are also part of those agencies of government. But as the resources improve, certainly NIWA  will also get more funds to be able to address all that it needs to do. So as we get funding as we progress as we make effort, and also improve on our IGR. I know that in the past four years, five years, our IGR has been on a constant increase.

And we have been contributing. Our revenue has consistently increased because when you talk about that’s why when I talked about awareness, as you’re getting people to know about you getting them to know their responsibility towards your decision, even you will also be increasing by the time you let them know that there are laws that must be obeyed under their feet that must be paid for the agency to grow. So I think that takes care of the question as asked.

NIWA has recently identified human errors as the major challenge that causes board mishaps in Lagos.What are the measures taken to address boat mishaps .

I mentioned that defaulters are being prosecuted along with a top national transport policy because we have identified that for example, somebody refuses to use the registered jetties and goes to a shawl parks his boat and convinces people to enter the boat without wearing a life jacket. Without being properly kitted, entering the waterway and running into trouble is human error. If the captain of the vessel is not properly trained, is human error. If they use it on Sunday school boards, these are human errors. If they’re in a drunken state, these are human errors. So each of these activities is based on a penalty. And we are prosecuting them. So there are punishments.


Onshore protection to prevent flooding

Yes, it’s a major challenge. As an organization, what do we do? We monitor river flow regularly. And we report to agents, we’ll put two communities along the banks. We let them understand we monitor. We have a department that deals with it. Our research and planning department deals with this with it regularly by monitoring live river flow, monitoring water flow so that we don’t have our people taking on highways when it has to do with flooding. And another way we addressed this issue is by increasing our maintenance dredging because flooding usually takes place when the water root is filtered. When the water root is silty, the only way you can remove that is because if you sit the water will not keep expanding instead of following a channel. So the only way you can address that is to make sure you try to open the channel and the water will follow that channel.

One thing we must understand is that capital dredging is one expensive business, a very expensive business. I remember there was capital dredging between 2012 and 2013. There was major dredging, and capital dredging that took place. So what we have been doing since then, is maintenance dredging, like I said, those prioritized routes, you make sure that you consistently open them, so that water will not flow. Then somebody asked a question concerning shore protection. You can build shore protection across all the river banks in Nigeria. That means you’re talking about 20,000 kilometers because we have over 10,000 kilometers of waterways, if you shall protect the side you shall protect the other side.

And that is practically impossible. So what we do is there is a priority need. We try and protect where banks are collapsing. We try and protect where it’s constantly used. We try and protect, especially when it touches the lives of our jetties of bridges and what have you. We try to protect and build shore protection there.


On opening other ports

Well, this point was made clear that the person who determines the movement of cargo is the owner of the cargo and we are engaging them, but the Chamber of Commerce the importers Association, because unless they have their buy-in. So the moment we get their total buy-in, I’m sure they will start moving there. The usual reaction is let me wait for the government to do it first. If they succeed, and if that was the mindset before I now said no.

How is it going to happen that the congestion, like I, said 60 to 65% of the cargo that comes into this country waters end up in the southeast? And even can make that route viable will reduce the problem of depression from our roads and save our infrastructure because they’re not designed to carry the weight they are carrying. That is the truth about it. And by the time you remove those volumes of cargo from the Lagos port, the port will be decongested.


On waste management.

I will also throw it back to the media to help us because we need to get our people to understand how to manage our waste is one problem. Because every year year in year out NIWA  spends money moving out floating debris on our waterways. Most of these floating debris or rubber bottled water, such it we keep throwing them and they all end in the waterway. So that’s what we’re doing to change get our people to change their attitude. We’re also engaging state governments because all our waterways pass through states. So they also can be part of the diffuse management by getting their people to discharge the refuse properly. Once we’re able to do that, it will reduce the investment, the expenditure, we expended trying to manage these wastes on our waterways.