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News Stories in 4th Quarter 2006 Edition of DDH Magazine

How Westminster Dredging Clinched River Niger Dredging Contract.

Barring any last minute changes, the long-winding processes for awarding the contract to dredge the lower river Niger is set to favour Royal Westminster Dredging and Marine Ltd, one of the oldest hands in the business in Nigeria.

Whether this long history of practice is what netted the British firm the plum contract is open to question but by its selection, the company bested quite a long list of other keen and interested counterparts, local and foreign. DDH’s investigation at the Federal Ministry of Transport revealed that the consultant to the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), under whose portfolio the project falls, favoured Westminster Dredging to execute the job. The present status of the contract stipulates a distance from Warri to Lokoja, according to sources familiar with the details.

As at July, industry reports had it that the award had been made but the successful contractor was not named apparently due to the unending twists and turns interest in the project generated since it was first started by the defunct Petroleum (Special) Trust Fund in the late 1990s. When it was revisited under Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s government in the new millennium, its components were made to include shore protection, jetties construction and the development of river ports along the River Niger and its tributaries. Former transport minister, Dr Abiye Sekibo, disclosed in July that the contract’s tender papers had been forwarded to the Due Process Office of the Presidency for certification.

The advantages of the dredging project are not far-fetched at all in view of the enormous challenges of both riverine and land transport in Nigeria at the moment. Sekibo, under whose watch much of the scheming for the job took place hails from the Niger delta region, the touted major beneficiary of any widening and deepening of the lower Niger waterway. In fact, when the restiveness of the Niger delta youths began to assume the current alarming proportions earlier in the year, the dredging project which ahd been mired in bureaucracy and politics since 2004 suddenly became an easy reference point for the Obasanjo government as symbolizing its intent to pump millions of Nigeria’s controversial petro-dollar into a project that will directly impact the delta denizens.

Initial estimates of the dredging budget are put at N30 billion, with about N13 billion said to be immediately ready for disbursement. Media reports quoting an announcement by the Information Minister, Frank Nweke Junior said the Federal Executive Council has already approved the memo for the contract award to Westminster Dredging.

|DDH gathered that the construction of river ports at Baro (Niger), Lokoja, Onitsha, Oguta (Imo), Idah (Kogi) and Okrika in Rivers State would be undertaken after the first phase of the dredging; this phase being expected to ease water transportation problems and facilitate movement of goods and people between the South and the North through the waterways. The Warri to Lokoja segment will cover only 578 km.

It would be called that stakeholders in the maritime and transport sector had, in August, called on the Federal Government to expedite action on the dredging of River Niger.|



4th Quarter 2006


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