Socio-economic activities in three riverine communities of Rivers State have suffered a setback, as commercial boat owners and drivers embarked on a three-day warning strike to protest frequent acts of insecurity on the waterways.
The affected communities are Bille, Bonny and Bakana.
Recall that two passenger boats were attacked last Saturday and three persons killed by suspected sea pirates along Port Harcourt/Bille routes, causing panic among boat drivers and travellers.
Our correspondent reports that the warning strike which began on Wednesday, had caused passengers to be stranded at the various jetties across the state, as boat owners and drivers shut down operations.
The affected jetties include, Bille, Abonnema Wharf, Nembe and Okirika.
The Tide also reports that business activities in the affected areas suffered a setback as boats which were supposed to convey foodstuffs to the communities were disallowed to load.
Condemning the pirates attacks on passengers, Chairman, Boat Owners Association, Okirika Branch, Mr. George Ota, said his branch embarked on a two-hour strike on Wednesday as a mark of solidarity with Billie and Bonny Boat Owners Association whose boats were attacked by sea robbers.
Ota, who called on the security agencies to beef up security along the affected routes, said maritime operators were regularly attacked by the robbers and valuables carted away.
The chairman said its sister branches had embarked on a three-day strike to register their grievances over the attacks.
He noted that goods and property valued at millions of naira were carted away by robbers during the attack without the Navy and the marine police effecting any arrest.
Ota said that drivers and passengers plying the aforementioned routes were in constant fear while travelling on the waterways.
Also speaking, a stranded passenger, Mr. Jumbo Yellow, called on the state government to deploy gunboats to patrol the creeks and rivers in the riverine communities to protect lives and property.
He said, “Our lives are now in danger, we called on the state government to come to our rescue, especially those travelling to Billie, Bonny, Bakana and Okirika axis by boat.”
The Tide reports that pregnant mothers and their children were seen stranded at Okirika jetty from 9am to 11am on Wednesday as boat owners shut down operations at the jetty.
Customs To Begin Electronic Clearance Of Cargoes
The Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) says it has obtained the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to begin electronic clearing of imported and exported goods in the country.
The Service said the e-clearance would transform the operations of Customs and provide for faster clearance of goods.
Comptroller General of Customs, Hameed Ali, disclosed this at the weekend during the graduation ceremony of 40 officers from the Senior Course 3 session at the Customs Command and Staff College in Gwagwalada, Abuja.
Ali said, “Export and import processing will be paperless. Your performance evaluation report will not be written on paper; you will fill it online and your superior will assess you online”.
He challenged Customs operatives to have a mindset of training to adopt the skills once the clearance technology is deployed.
The Comptroller General noted that the Customs Command and Staff College would have its name changed to Training and Doctrine Command following the Board’s approval.
Also speaking, Acting Deputy Comptroller General and Commandant of the College, Elisha Chikan, said the college had graduated two other senior sets since 2017.
He said of the 40 students that were admitted into the college, 39 graduated because the management lost one student to the cold hand of death.
“Although 40 students were admitted for the course, today, we are graduating 39 because we lost one of them”, he said.
Bonny Anchorage, Most Insecure Waterways – NISA
Ship owners in the country under the umbrella of the Nigerian Ship-Owners Association (NISA), have raised an alarm that the Bonny anchorage remains the deadliest and insecure section of the Nigerian waterways.
Chairman, NISA, Mallam Aminu Umar, who disclosed this at a parley with newsmen in Lagos, recently, said that out of the four anchorages that exist on Nigerian waterways, Bonny poses the deadliest threat to ship owners in the country.
Umar listed the four anchorages as Lagos, Warri, Bonny and Calabar.
According to the association, Bonny remains the most dangerous for ships plying the nation’s waters.
“At Bonny anchorage, no ship owner will dare drop anchor there because it is not secure, and is the most dangerous section of Nigeria’s waters. Ships can only reach Bonny anchorage during day time. There are anchorages in Nigeria, no ship dare call when it is night, and Bonny is number one of such anchorages.
Any ship that berths at Bonny anchorage during the day must leave before nightfall or risk its own safety.
At Bonny anchorages, ships don’t drop anchor because any ship that does that, does so at her own peril”, he said.
Umar called for regular patrol of the Bonny waterways by the Nigeria Navy and marine police to curb the spate of insecurity.
” If you look at the four anchorages on our waters, which include Lagos, Warri, Bonny and Calabar, and you compare them to each other, you will notice that there has been a drop in the level of insecurity on the Lagos, Warri and Calabar anchorages.
“In Bonny, we have two anchorages, the outer anchorage and the inner anchorage. An anchorage is where a vessel will go and drop anchor before a pilot comes to take the vessel inside the port. Inner anchorage at Bonny is already inside the pilot district, so if you are in inner anchorage of Bonny, you are already safe inside the port.
“The Nigeria Liquified Natural Gas (NLNG) is located at the inner anchorage and that place is secure. But for the outer anchorage, no ship dare drops anchor because of its volatility with insecurity issues”, Umar said.
By: Chinedu Wosu
NIWA Raises Alarm Over Substandard Tugboats, Barges On Waterways
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), has decried the use of substandard tugboats and barges by operators to evacuate cargos from Apapa Port to Ikorodu and Epe waterways in Lagos.
NIWA said the development was responsible for the falling of many containers into the Lagos lagoon, thereby posing grave danger to boat drivers.
NIWA’s Manager, Lagos Area, Sarat Braimah, at a stakeholders’ meeting in Lagos, recently, said the Apapa traffic gridlock had gradually shifted movement of containers by barges in Lagos.
“As a result of the congestion at our ports, which was caused by the Apapa traffic gridlock, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) called us for a meeting, and informed us that they have given some people license to lift cargoes by barges using our inland waterways.
“The routes for cargo evacuation by barges are Apapa to Ikorodu and Apapa to Epe.
“We were happy with the NPA initiative because having all containers leave the port by road is crippling our port system.
“Unfortunately, just two months after the commencement of cargo evacuation by barges at our seaports, we started having containers falling into the lagoon; the same way containers used to fall off from the back of trucks on Ojuelegba bridge, but this time around, the containers were not falling off from the back of trucks, but were falling into the lagoon from atop the barges”, she said.
Braimah said the Authority found out that the problem has to do with the quality of tugboats and barges used in cargo evacuation at the nation’s seaports.
She appealed to investors interested in moving cargoes by barges to do it right.
“We would not want to transfer the problem we are having on our roads to our waterways. I have told the barge operators to look for funds to ensure they are doing the business properly.
“I have told them that henceforth, the survey and registration of their barges must strictly come from the NIWA Lagos office.
“We will only give permit to any barge that we have satisfied that is fit and capable of doing the cargo evacuation business on our waters.
“For example, the first mishap that occurred was because the tugboat had only one engine and was carrying twelve containers from the Ikorodu terminal to Apapa and all of a sudden, right in the middle of the Lagos lagoon, the only engine of the tugboat developed fault at Elegbata.
“With a faulty engine, the tugboat could no longer maneuver the barge, and the heavy tides of the Lagos lagoon threw some of the containers off balance on the barge, and they fell into the lagoon.
Braimah said the sad incident happened about two weeks ago.
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