AFTER paying a contractor N34 billion for the dredging of the River Niger, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration failed to get the job done.
The Muhammadu Buhari administration is spending N100m on the job, Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi said yesterday in Lagos. It was at the opening of a conference on Fast-tracking Port Reforms hosted by The Nation in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Epsilon Limited.
The minister said: ”When the River Niger was first approved for dredging by the previous administration, it was approved for N47billion and N34billion was paid to the contractor. Dancers were called in and there was a party.
“We are not dredging the River Niger with billions of naira; we are dredging the River Niger with just N100m. When we flagged it off recently, did you see us dancing? Was there a party? I just went to see the governor and told him that the project will start today and will be finished in one month.
“The governor said he will accompany me, and I said ‘ok’. So, I asked the governor to flag it off since it’s located in his state.”
Amaechi went on: “People are wondering how on earth we are going to dredge the River Niger for N100m when the previous government awarded same contract for N47billion? But we are going to dredge the River Niger, using dredgers owned by the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA).
“NIWA has dredgers, but the previous government preferred to give contractors money to dredge the river with private dredgers while NIWA’s dredgers were lying idle somewhere in Port Harcourt.
“The NIWA MD told me the agency has dredgers, but it’s been hired out to somebody in Port Harcourt. So, we had dredgers, but the previous administration hired them out to some persons in Port Harcourt while paying a contractor billions of naira to use privately owned dredgers at a very high cost.
“I told the NIWA MD that I will look for money to fuel their dredgers, and work has started. That is why we are dredging the River Niger with just N100m,” Amaechi said.
In 2011, the Jonathan administration approved the Lower River Niger Dredging Project from Warri, in Delta State, to Baro, in Niger State, to four contractors — Fung Tai Eng Company Nigeria Limited, Dredging International Service Nigeria Limited, Van Oord Nigeria Limited and Williams Lloyds Technology Company Limited.
Last year, the Nigerian Indigenous Ship-Owners Association (NISA) accused NIWA of bungling the dredging contract of the Lower River Niger.
NISA President Aminu Umar told a national daily: ”We keep hearing that the River Niger has been dredged down to Warri, but how has that improved the traffic of vessels along that route? I don’t think that river was dredged.