President Muhammad Buhari on Monday hinted that his administration is committed to rebuilding infrastructure that supports multimodal means of transportation from the ports to the hinterland, even as he directed the linking of major seaports in the country to rail infrastructure.
The president stated that the current administration’s projection was that by the end of 2021, the country will have a standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route. He gave the hint while declaring open the conference of the African Region of the International Association for Ports and Harbours (IAPH) in Abuja.
According to him, “We understand that this interconnectivity will improve the country’s economic competitiveness as targeted under the Economic Recovery and Growth. So for starters, I have directed that every port must have the complement of rail infrastructure and our projection is that by the end of 2021, we will have standard gauge railway across the main North-South trading route.
“The same level of serious attention is being given to the improvement of road infrastructure. At the moment, 25 major highways and 44 roads are under construction across the six geo-political zones of the country.
“Major inland river channels are being dredged with adequate channel markings for ease of navigation all the way through the East and Northern parts of the country. That is the only way to go if we plan to remain competitive in the maritime industry.”
“Of course, there are on-going discussions in Nigeria and other African countries on the expediency of urgently investing in infrastructure that supports multi-modal means of transportation between our ports and the hinterland. Meetings like this put the issues in proper perspectives and serve as avenue for the generation of ideas that would aid our national governments formulates effective policies.”
He implored participants at the conference to see themselves as people opportune to stand in positions of responsibility on behalf of Africa. “I say this because the maritime sector where all of are fortunate to be active stakeholders is central to the facilitation of trade and the total integration of Africa for even development.
‘‘I look forward to fruitful outcome from which all of Africa will benefit. And on that note, it is my pleasure to declare the first Regional Conference of the International Association for Ports and Harbours in Africa open. I wish you very useful deliberations,” he said.
Similarly, the Vice-President, International Association for Ports and Harbours (Africa) and Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman, said:
“Given our limitless potential and the concerted efforts of national leaders on the continent to explore the potentials that our ports bear, there could be no better time for us as administrators of ports across the continent to ponder on the best ways to improve connectivity to the hinterland where most of the cargoes that we receive at our ports are designed for.
“There’s no doubt that one of the determinant factors for the relevance of ports is the speed and seamlessness with which owners of cargo are able to move their consignments out of the ports and that Africa really have a lot of work to do in this area.”
Usman, while delivering her opening remarks, stated that for these and so many other reasons, the theme for the conference, ‘African ports and Hinterland Connectivity’ is one that will hopefully unleash the potential of our ports to contribute to development
“In the 63 years of its existence, the association has grown into a global alliance representing 180 members’ ports and 140 port-related businesses in 90 countries. The IAPH promotes collaborations and information sharing which helps to resolve common issues and continually improve on service of ports to the maritime industries.
“Although this is an African conference, global key organization like the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are here to avail us the opportunity to latest global best practices and opportunity that exists for the development of ports in Africa.’’