The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, on Thursday accused former President Goodluck Jonathan of wasting N34 billion on the dredging of the River Niger.
According to The Nation Newspaper, Mr. Amaechi disclosed 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.
The minister said this at a conference on Fast-tracking Port Reforms, hosted by The Nation newspaper in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Transportation, in Lagos.
”When the River Niger was first approved for dredging by the previous administration,” Mr. Amaechi said, “it was approved for N47 billion and N34 billion 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 N100 million. 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.”
Commenting on concerns raised in certain quarters on how the government plans to execute the dredging exercise with N100 million as against the N47 billion earmarked for same by Mr. Jonathan’s government, the former Rivers State governor said the government would not employ the services of private dredgers.
“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?,” he said.
“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 N100 million,” Mr. Amaechi said.
The Jonathan administration had in 2011 approved the Lower River Niger Dredging Project from Warri, in Delta State, to Baro, in Niger State, to four contractors, including Fung Tai Eng Company Nigeria Limited, Dredging International Service Nigeria Limited, Van Oord Nigeria Limited and Williams Lloyds Technology Company Limited.
Meanwhile, in 2016, the Nigerian Indigenous Ship-Owners Association (NISA) had lamented the poor handling of the dredging project, saying no work was done despite the huge fund earmarked for it.
“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,” Aminu Umar, NISA president, had said.
“Nothing has changed before and after the so-called dredging that they claimed to have done.
“To be honest with you, from the shipping community, we don’t think any dredging has taken place on that river.
”How can the Federal Government approve N43 billion for the dredging of the River Niger and nothing would have changed? How can such money have been spent on that river and it still looks like that?,” he had lamented.
Meanwhile, Mr. Amaechi also disclosed that $186 million had been approved by Mr. Buhari for the fight against piracy and other criminalities on the waterways, adding that part of the money would be spent on three helicopters and three other aircraft, among others.
“Mr. President has approved $186million to fight piracy in our waters,” he said.
“The funds will be used to buy three helicopters, three aircraft, 12 vessels stationed in the water. In the next three months, all of them would be deployed to fight piracy on our waters.
“We promised change. Change is not talked about; it is felt. That is why we asked that the people should give us time.”