It is increasingly becoming more certain that the dredging of the River Niger is being turned into the proverbial cash cow, which drains the nation of scarce resources with little or nothing to show for it. The latest dredging moves signalled by a Senate resolution is coming on the heels of an uneasy recession exit.
Just yesterday, Tuesday September 26, the Senate passed a resolution urging the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to commence the dredging of Rivers Niger, Benue and Hadejia Jamare which will cost the nation yet another billions of scarce funds. The action of the Senate is in response to the recent flood crisis in parts of the Country, following heavy rains and the over flooding of the River Niger from upstream in Niger Republic. Senate also urged the Federal and State Governments to institute strictly land use and environmental planning, and asked the Federal Ministry of Water Resources to design and implement a National integrated community- based projects to initiate dredging, and drainage programmes to cover the entire national riverine network.
Senate also urged the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) to urgently mobilize to the locations affected by the flood disasters to extend humanitarian and medical assistance to avoid the outbreak of communicable diseases, particularly gastroenteritis and cholera which are very much prevalent in such places.The moves by the Senate are in order since it falls within their legislative and oversight mandate to intervene on matters of national safety and welfare.
However, the question is how many times do we spend collosal amount of money on the same River Niger dredging project? Or is it that collaborators in successive governments are resolute in frustrating accpmplisjment of the project so that they can continuously benefit from the proceeds therefrom ?
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, had recently accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of wasting N34 billion on the dredging of the River Niger. He said that the Muhammadu Buhari administration is spending N100 million on the job, adding that after paying a contractor N34 billion for the dredging exercise, former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration failed to get the job done.
In Amaechi’s words, ”When the River Niger was first approved for dredging by the previous administration, it was approved for N47 billion and N34 billion was paid to the contractor.
“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.”
Although the late President Umaru Musa Yar’ Adua, in September 2009, flagged-off the dredging of the lower River Niger and gave approval for the construction of seven additional sea ports to boost socio-economic activities in the country, the implementation of the dredging was executed by his successor, former President Goodluck Jonathan.
We believe that the dredging of the Niger, Benue and other inland water ways are strategic investment drives that can translate to socio-economic gains for the country and must be encouraged. But we do not believe that the same project should be appropriated for repeatedly. That will be taking Nigerians for granted by those who superintend over their commonwealth. It is necessary for anti corruption agencies to beam search light on the discrepancy between N34bn and N100m spent on the Niger dredging by two separate governments.