Oguta seaport complex rots - THE NATION
In the time past, the Oguta Seaport was full of commercial activities, as vessels from Liverpool in England and other European countries sailed to the port for businesses. At a point, things became awry. CHRIS NJOKU reports that the Federal Government has plans to revitalise the abandoned project.
National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) Managing Director George Moghalu is not happy. No thanks to the state of the Oguta seaport, which in the 50s, was playing host to vessels from Liverpool and other countries.
He noted that Oguta Port, which was connected to River Niger, was used by the European mercantile companies to move palm produce, oil and gas, agricultural products, natural resources to other parts of the countries and Europe.
These days, such beehive is a shadow of itself as the port is no longer functional to encourage economic activities.
Moghalu, who visited the complex at Osse Motto in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo State recently was worried that the modernised complex began 10 years ago by the late President Musa Yar’ Adua administration to replace the colonial warehouses that are now in a deployable state.
The Managing Director, who was there to access the level of rot as a result of the abandonment of the Oguta Port said: “We recall that vessels were coming from Liverpool to Oguta River Port in the 50s and I ask what is happening now, why are they not doing the same thing now? What is the problem? That is why we are here to restore the businesses.”
He expressed shock at the level of decay and abandonment at the complex.
“I have seen the level of work at the port and it is clear that the work has been abandoned.
A visit to the place showed that all construction work has come to a halt. Since the stoppage of work at the complex, structures at the seaport have been decaying fast.”
“Investigation also showed that the complex had been overtaken by weeds, rodents and reptiles with the buildings particularly one storey administrative blocks had been vandalised by hoodlums. It was also observed that wind had blown off the roofs of the administrative building while termites have eaten all the wooden structures at the complex.
“The port has no fence and that has made it porous and exposed to danger and vandalisation.
There is need to build a fence and protect the businesses and investors’ money,” Moghalu said.
Experts estimated that the Federal Government might have lost billions of naira to vandals and would also require billions to put it to use as the government has to start afresh to build the port again.
Sources at NIWA told The Nation that the Federal Government would require nothing short of N5 billion to bring the port to live and completed.
The source said the Federal Government would have been raking in at least N500, 000 every day as revenue had the port been functional over the years it had lied fallow.
“Assuming we are making N500, 000 every day, we would have made N168, 000,000 in a year. And for the 10 years the port had remained abandoned, the government has lost billions of naira as revenue,” a top NIWA official who pleaded not to be mentioned because he was not authorised to comment on the matter said.
It was gathered that the project was awarded to an indigene of Osse Motto to execute, but according to our finding, the contractor could not continue the project due to lack of funds which he said was a major reason for none completion of the contract he began 10 years ago.
The contractor, Ogbuagu Gogo Wakuche told The Nation that he was willing to continue the project if money would be made available to him.
“I have been handling the project, but work stopped because I was not paid as at when due. I will continue if funds are released,” he said.
General Manager, Public Relations, Tayo Fadile said though the contractor has complained of funds, he did not see it as enough reason to abandon such project whose benefit cannot be quantified.
“The project is something his people will benefit from and still he cannot do it even though he had complained of not been paid as at when due.”
He said the project has been abandoned for too long, which has led to unbridled vandalisation.
“As it stands, virtually everything has to be started afresh due to the level of destruction,” he said.
He further said the concept of the project was to go with Onitsha, Baru and Lokoja “which are the four ports designed to go with the dredging of the River Niger so that when goods are moved from Oguta to Onitsha, it will easily be transported to far North through Lokoja. That was the concept,” he said.
It is shocking to discover that Oguta has a rail line which was designed to run to Lokoja.
“Oguta has a rail line to move goods to Baru and Lokoja and to other parts of the North, ” he said.
The news that the port would be resuscitated gladdened the hearts of those indigenous to the area.
Some members of the community who spoke with The Nation said they were excited when they heard that the Federal Government would resuscitate the river port.
But they said they are not sure of government’s commitment to complete the project since it was not the first time government official would visit the port.
They, however, appealed to the Federal Government to fulfill its promise as several visits in the past have not yielded any positive result to resuscitate the project.
An indigene of the area that identified himself as Jude narrated how the port was beneficial to people from all over the country that came to do businesses, especially palm oil business.
Some also said from the Oguta River Port, it was easier for people to export their agricultural products to other towns across the country.
A community leader, Henry Okafor, who was a regent of the community said: “In the past, when we brought palm oil, many companies would come here and buy them off and keep in their various warehouses and finally load them into their vessels which would then move towards Rivers State and to the high sea and then moved possibly to Europe.
“As of then, we had so many Igbo top businessmen and women from other states that had their warehouses here. They were buying and selling to white people. So, when the palm oil business collapsed, the port was affected.
“The late President Yar’ Adua saw reasons why inland waterways should be developed. The inland waterways connect the states to the high sea. For us to mitigate the traffic on our roads it has become necessary to have our inland waterways functional so that vessels could carry more goods compared to other means of transportation.”
He regretted that the Federal Government abandoned the project for too long which he said caused the vandalisation.
He said: “If you abandon a house for a very long time, termites and animals will destroy them. If the breeze blows, it will uproot the roof. Over 80 per cent of vandalisation occurred because the project was abandoned.
The traditional ruler, Eze Franklin Okafor, expressed his joy that the government would resuscitate the port which he said would provide job opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths.
He said the importance of the port cannot be over-emphasised as it would open the community to the outside world as was the case during the colonial era when the area was a trading axis for European merchants.
“The Federal Government will also earn revenue to sustain other projects across the country,” he said.