Federal and state lawmakers, as well as local council chairmen, representing Niger South Senatorial District, have appealed to the Federal Government to complete every component of the Baro River Port project.
Senator Muhammad Bima (APC-Niger South), made the appeal when he led members of the State House of Assembly and the council chairmen, on an inspection tour of the port.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN), reports that the port was commissioned by President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019, but was yet to be operational.
Bima said when the port was commissioned in 2019, people thought operations were going to start immediately, and they were very excited.
“Apparently, the jubilation was because of the projected economic boost its operationalisation would engender in Niger South, Northern Nigeria and Nigeria at large.
“The components that are delaying the full take-off of this project are mainly the road, the rail, and the maintenance dredging.
“This is something that can be done even in one year. It is not rocket science; it is something that can be done easily,” he said.
He said that against the backdrop of the high rate of unemployment in the country, Baro port was projected to bring about thousands of direct and indirect jobs.
According to the senator, the project has been in the works for about two decades, having been designed in the 90s by the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
“Contracts were awarded in 2009, re-awarded in 2013 and 2016, yet the aim has not been achieved.
“We are therefore pleading with the Federal Government to strive for its completion before the end of this administration in 2023, so that the economic revolution everyone believes an inland port will engender, will stop being perpetually postponed.”
Bima said that for the port to become optimally operational, there was a need for the maintenance dredging so that the river would be de-silted.
NAN reports that silt is fine sand, clay or other material carried by running water and deposited as a sediment, especially in a channel or harbour.
To de-silt is, therefore, the process of removing suspended silt from water or stream.
“The dredging of the Lower River Niger that was carried out from Warri down to Baro was a commendable effort.
“However, the river is now silted. Therefore, we are calling for maintenance dredging so that the river will be de-silted.
“Roads that link the port must be promptly constructed or rehabilitated.
“It is noteworthy that across the north, dry ports are springing up; their functionalities would not be optimal if a link to an inland port is not made easy.
“Therefore, the Lambata-Bida and Agaie-Katcha-Baro and Baro-Abaji roads should be promptly constructed or rehabilitated.
“Baro has been linked to a rail since the colonial era. The rail has, however, stopped functioning for decades.
“We are therefore calling for the modernisation of the rail, because a multi-modal transport system will optimise functions of the port,” the senator said.
He further said that as lawmakers, they would ensure that the project was captured in the 2021 budget.
The lawmaker also urged the government to include the port on its list of projects funded through its Sovereign Wealth Fund, because of the economic importance of the port.
The Port Manager, Mr Tolufashe Bamidele, appealed to government to fast tract the construction of the road and rail line to attract would-be investors.
Chairman Agaiye Local Government Council, Capt. Hassan Mohammed (rtd), said that the downturn of activities at the port had hindered economic activities in the community.
He said that most importantly, however, lack of political will was the factor that had militated against take-off of the port.
“There is no point to build a port that is about N10 billion worth, and then there is no road network.
“If you bring goods from Lokoja, Kogi, Warri, Delta, how do you take take them out? The railway and the roads are not functioning,” Mohammed said.
The team also visited the Etsu (Emir) of Agaie, Yusuf Nuhu, who expressed optimism that the lawmakers’visit was a sign that the port would soon be functional.