Federal Government’s opening of the Onitsha River Port for operation after 42 years of inactivity has caused traders and importers of goods in Onitsha, Anambra State to start jubilating endlessly.
Their excitement is drawn from the fact that they would no longer have to travel to Lagos, Warri and Port Harcourt to clear their goods henceforth.
Onitsha River port was built under the administration of President Shehu Shagari in 1983 and since then, it has been lying fallow and completely unutilized until 2012 when it was rehabilitated and commissioned by former President Goodluck Jonathan.
Some of the setbacks to the opening of the port were the politicization and the shallowness of the River Niger, which could not allow ships to berth at Onitsha River port.
The National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) penultimate Sunday commenced the test-run of containers movement between the Onne Port in Rivers State, the Onitsha River port in Anambra State and beyond.
Inaugurating the port, NIWA’s Managing Director, Dr George Moghalu, said the aim was to explore the potentials of inland water transportation among others.
According to Moghalu, he was happy that Onitsha River port was finally functional after 42 years of its construction.
“The aim of the test run is to break the jinx and encourage partnership with the Barge Operators Association, that it is possible to move containers from Onne to Onitsha by water successfully and Onitsha to Onne as well.
“This is the first phase of the test run and the second phase will be from the Lagos ports to Onitsha River port and from Onitsha to Lagos.
“NIWA is giving exemplary leadership to investors that moving goods on the waterways is economically viable and safe, so that investors can key in and benefit from the potentials of water transportation,” he said.
Moghalu, who said the exercise was in preparation for the full operation of the port, which will commence by the first quarter of 2021, noted that the full operation of the river port would boost economic activities in Anambra State and the entire South East, create jobs and wealth for the teeming youths, reduce bottle neck in clearing goods, save money wasted in transporting containers from different ports to the South East, decongest Lagos ports and reduce the pressure on our roads.
Some residents of Onitsha town, mainly traders and importers, who spoke to news agency, said the opening of the port would reduce the additional cost they incur in the course of transporting goods down to the South East.
They expressed gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari and the port administrators for making it possible after 42 years.
The General Secretary of Onitsha Electronic Market, Deacon Damian Ugudike, said the South East would forever remember the president for finally opening the port to ease the pains they’ve been going through in the course of importing goods and transporting them to markets in Onitsha and South East.
He urged the government to prioritize on making it fully functional and effective because they have suffered so much in the process of clearing goods for the region in Lagos and Port Harcourt over the years.
The benefits associated with this port are enormous.
“After passing through the stress of clearing the goods, the roads to transport them to the South East are bad, and most times containers fall in transit due to the terrible state of the roads,” he said.