The Federal Government may have flagged off the dredging of the 84- kilometre Calabar channel dredging, at the weekend, in spite of the controversy surrounding the choice and competence of its chosen dredging company.
An elated Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, who represented President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan at the occasion, also specifically noted that there was no going back, in terms of the choice of the Calabar Channel Management (CCM), as he indicated that the CCM would be assisted by Messrs Niger Global Engineering and Technical Company Limited, in the execution of the project.
But the revelation that Mr. President’s approval covers only the deepening of the channel to 10 meters, however frightened his audience, who noted that the kind of ships, presently calling in the Lagos Ports, with over 13 metre depth, may never be smelled in Calabar Port, as a result of the current channel depth endorsement.
Speaking further, the Minister expressed his satisfaction that with the commencement, suspicion on the sincerity of Government to boost ship traffic in the Cross River area has now been eliminated, even as he indicated his strong belief that with the expected increased ship traffic would also be, enhanced private investor participation and a corresponding increase in government revenue.
The Minister grieved, that when the contract was initially awarded, it covered only 60 kilometres and that was the escape route available, when the contractor abandoned the remaining 24 kilometres, in-conclusively.
It was learnt that the dredging of the channel would take two years.
Meanwhile, the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA) Mallam Habib Abdullahi has assured that the authority would leave I stones unturned, in a bid to ensure the success of CCM in its operations and overall management of the channel.
Reiterating the assurances of the Minister, Habib Abdullahi noted that the dredging when completed, would ultimately open up market, not only for the Calabar port environ, but the entire South- South; boosting revenue and creating employment in the sector.
In his contribution, the acting Managing Director of CCM Mr. Pieter Van Hekken assured Nigerians that his company would perform beyond expectations, adding that it was the only way to further boost the I going public- private partnership and collaboration, in the nation’s maritime sector.