By Eneh John
To everyone who has followed National issues in the country,you will agree with me that the late president Umaru Musa Yaradua, had awarded the dredging of the River Niger which was stopped by Goodluck Jonathan.
But it surprises us on how time actually flies.
Today, Goodluck Jonathan is seeking votes from Niger state to become the president again.
Indigenes of the state has opened up that all is not well as long as the Jonathan candidacy is concerned.
Here is an in depth report below on how Jonathan stopped the contract.
Nigeria: Baro Community Decries Quality of River Niger Dredging.
The people of Baro Community in Agaie local government area of Niger State have raised the alarm over the quality of dredging of River Niger and inland port under construction in the area.
Findings also revealed that the people were not happy over the inability of the federal government and the contractors handling the dredging as well as construction of Baro port started in 2010 to pay them compensation for their destroyed farmlands.
When our correspondent visited Baro, the contractor handling the dredging was not on site but it was learnt that the contractor was on site up until last year after test-running the purported dredging with boat from Baro to Jamata in Kogi State.
The people further expressed reservations over the quality of work done, as they alleged that the contractor did a peripheral dredging, which, by their estimation, would not be able to carry a ship but just a ferry or flying boat.
Confirming the development, the village head of Baro, Alhaji Mohammed Kazoro, told LEADERSHIP that the engineers who were sent for the dredging did not do any serious work on the existing depth of the river as expected by the community.
He said, “There is no ship that can come to this place because the work is not good. You can see that everywhere within the depth of the river is filled with sand, so where do you expect ships to come into the port.
“Instead of them to carry out sand out of the course of the river and to widen the river for the ships to be able to land, up till now it has not been so and we don’t know how ship would be able to land with this poor work.”
According to him, “the engineers did not do any work but they said they have completed the job. They only came here, sat down and were eating their bush meat”.
The Federal Government yesterday halted the dredging of the lower River Niger pending the total protection of shorelines through land reclamation of areas in the Niger Delta.
This was the outcome of a meeting that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan had with the Steering Council of the Niger Delta Amnesty Programme at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Consequently, Jonathan has directed the Ministry of Finance to transfer N19 billion intervention funds for the dredging of that part of the lower River Niger to the Ministry of the Niger Delta for shoreline protection and land reclamation. He also directed that the contract should be executed in four weeks’ time.
Special Assistant, Media to the acting President Mr. Ima Niboro, who briefed reporters on the outcome of the meeting, said the change was part of the amnesty programme of the Federal Government.
The meeting, which was also attended by governors from the Niger Delta states, also resolved that the most urgent requirements are land reclamation and shoreline protection, instead of dredging of the lower River Niger.
“There was a proposal to dredge the lower Niger and because of some issues about the areas, the Acting President decided to get the governors to take a look at these proposals and see the area of critical needs of their own states so that we can take a bottom up approach in the area of infrastructural development of the Niger Delta. Basically, the issue was between the dredging of the lower Niger and shoreline protection/land reclamation and all the governors are of the consensus that the most urgent requirement is land reclamation and shore protection.
“So today, the Acting President directed that the N19 billion intervention fund should be passed to the Ministry of Niger Delta from the Ministry of Finance for this shoreline protection initiative.
“The special intervention fund was supposed to be for the dredging of that part. So instead of using it to dredge now which will cause greater challenges, you know when dredged, the water channels become deeper, flows become faster and it will actually impact more on the shores of the communities. So it is that fund that is to be redeployed to protect the shorelines according to the request of the communities.
“Subsequently, when these areas have been well protected and land adequately reclaimed, then we can now go into the area of dredging of the lower Niger area,” Niboro said.
He said the reversal became necessary in order to protect communities in the Niger Delta and the decision has no any political undertone. “In fact there have been several instances of communities that have lost much of their shorelines to the ocean. Bayelsa State has lost almost one kilometre if not more of its shoreline to the ocean because of its root that surrounds erosion and all that. Many communities have lost most of their land to water. anybody from the area can attest to that,” he said.
Speaking on the project, Governor Timipre Sylva of Bayelsa State said shoreline protection was the immediate priority of the communities in the Niger Delta because of the effect of the ocean on their lands.
“Right now, the thing that will touch our people more importantly is shoreline reclamation and protection because the people will see it immediately and know that the Federal Government is doing something about their situation,” he said
Source: Abu Nmodu
Eneh John is a Journalist and secretary, Coalition of Human Rights Defenders(CORHD)
E-mail: [email protected]