By Innocent Orok
The Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority ( NPA) Hadiza Bala Usman has said that three key reasons are responsible why vessels are avoiding the Eastern ports .
According to the NPA boss, insecurity, poor access roads and lack of rail linkages as well as shallow drafts of the channels are the reasons why the eastern ports are being avoided .
The NPA boss make the remarks at a meeting with members of the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Ports and Harbours.
She lamented that vessels avoid the ports because of insecurity on the waterways, the shallow draft of the channels which hinders the movement of big vessels, poor access roads and rail linkages to the ports in these areas.
On the shallow draft limitation, Usman explained that dredging works have been completed on deepening the Warri channel draught to 7.5 meters, while consultants have been engaged to advise on level of investments needed to improve the infrastructure capacity of the Port Harcourt port.
This is following the approval of the contract by the Federal Executive Council in 2018.
She also said Onne Port is currently functioning at full capacity, adding that the NPA management was working with all relevant stakeholders to address the challenges facing the patronage of the Eastern Ports saying that NPA had granted all requisite approvals for the construction of the Lekki Deep Sea Port in Lagos state.
On security, she explained that the NPA is purchasing patrol boats and working with the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Port Police Command to combat crimes on the nation’s waterways and assured that progress is being made on this front.
To address the issue of port access roads, Hadiza Usman explained that the NPA has drawn a basket of such roads across the country and written to the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing about the need to prioritise the rehabilitation of these roads.
On his part the Chairman of the Ad-hoc Committee, Hon. Buba Yakub, had earlier explained that the committee was investigating why the Eastern Ports are not working, compared to the Western Ports, and the effects on national development.
Yakub said members of the committee will visit the ports and come up with a blueprint on how to improve the patronage at the Eastern Ports as well as prevent agitations from host communities.
It could be recalled that the committee had earlier held a public hearing on August 15, 2019 to determine why the Eastern ports are not being put to maximum use.