The Managing Director of the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM) Mr. Abba Bello has solicited for the partnership, support and cooperation of the Nigerian Navy towards facilitating the regional Sealink Project, internal waterways operation and coastal trade.
Mr. Bello made this solicitation during a courtesy visit to the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas in his office. He identified the areas of support and cooperation to include involvement of the Navy Hydrography Department in the proposed survey of the lower River Niger and River Benue with the submission of data collected to the Navy Hydrography Department for chart publishing. Other areas are the provision of security support for safe navigation along the trade routes/channels and development of a mutually beneficial partnership framework for the use of the Naval Dockyard Limited for servicing/repairs of Sealink operated vessels and design and construction of barges.
“The partnership would also include recruitment of retired naval personnel,” he said. Responding, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas underscored the commitment of the Nigerian Navy to the security of the nation’s waterways following the establishment of NNS LUGARD at Lokoja and Naval Outposts at Onitsha and Idah.
The CNS also mentioned the prospects for the establishment of other Nigerian Navy outposts along the nation’s major inland waters, particularly at Oguta and Shagunu in Imo and Niger states respectively. Admiral Ibas recalled the existing Nigerian Navy’s collaboration with other agencies of government including the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
He advocated for the articulation of an MOU between the NN and NEXIM/NIWA towards the proposed collaboration on the Regional Sealink Project. The CNS expressed the expectation that an appropriate Environmental Impact Assessment of the Regional Sealink Project has been done considering the heavily silted waterways across the nation.
Admiral Ibas reassured Mr. Bello of Nigerian Navy’s capacity to support the project in the areas of production of appropriate navigational charts for the nation’s inland waterways and support in the dredging operations. Other areas are in the provision of necessary security to cover the entire project and construction of barges for inland waterways movement at the Naval Dockyard Limited and Naval Shipyard Limited. The Regional Sealink Project is an initiative that was initiated by NEXIM on the prompting of the Organized Private Sector (OPS).
Sealink is currently being officially promoted by NEXIM. The project is essentially designed to bridge the maritime transport infrastructure gap amongst ECOWAS and CEMAC member states as well as promote inland waterways operations. The project will also facilitate intra-regional trade and reduction of non-tariff measures, regional integration/reduction in logistics cost and promotion of inland waterways and intra-coastal trade especially in facilitating the movement of bulk commodities e.g. solid minerals.
The Sealink Project has been endorsed and adopted by the ECOWAS Commission as one of its priority projects under the ECOWAS Community Development Programmes and is also co-opted into the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC).