History was made this week when Onitsha inland port was opened after about 40 years when the first ship landed in the new port. Some business men and residents of the South East were thrown into jubilation because of this development. Historically, not many people are aware that Onitsha was once a seaport.
The news of the arrival was yet received with mixed feelings in certain quarters. While some were feasting over it others were nonplussed about it. Those who rejoiced over the issue did so based on the perceived benefits that will accrue from the effort. Those who cared less about it belong to the group who felt that it was merited and ought to be developed ever since given the contributions of the region to the Nigerian economy.
They have argued that the absence of a port in the South East was a great loss to the federal government arising from the missing benefits which could have since accrued to the nation. Hitherto, the people in the South East region have remained strident in its charge of marginalization in the sighting of federal projects. This is part of the reasons that splinter groups have emerged in the nation agitating for a separatist states.
The case of the Independent people of Biafra and the Oduduwa nation are clear examples. The completion of the Niger Bridge which has been politicized is now protracted although reportedly work is proceeding progressively on the project. It is charged that such projects would have long been completed if it has had anything to do with the north. These are projects which impacts impinge on the life of the people but are neglected thus the charge of marginalization.
Like a typical Igbo saying goes (Ositadimma), let it start to be good from today the Igbos hope that the narrative will begin to change from this. One exciting benefit derivable from establishing the port is clearing the long created misconception and wrong information planted in the minds of people that the South East is a land locked area, not good for importation business through the waters.
The commencement of operations in the port in 2021 is significant in more ways than one. First, it will help to clear Lagos ports and Lagos roads of the ships and trucks that congest the ports and create gridlocks on the roads. Consequently, it will reduce the inconveniences that impinge on human lives in Lagos state as well as the pressure on road infrastructure.
It will improve revenue generation within the region. Cost of ferrying goods from Lagos with all the attendant inconveniences including road accidents, police and customs disturbances which impacts too on the costs of the goods will be reduced if not eliminated. This is in addition to the huge employment opportunities that cut across board that will be created.
Though the activities of the port is reported to be at the pilot stage but information glimpsed from a spectrum of the media indicate that the calendar of international shipping firms as captured in their website have already slated goods to hit the Onitsha ports in the days ahead. One of the reported challenges in the present effort is the shallow nature of the sea port which requires dredging to allow big ships to berth subsequently. We trust the ports authorities will factor this into their arrangement expeditiously to maximize the benefits.
The South East region is the home of business men in Nigeria. In terms of commerce in Nigeria, the South Easterners have no rival and the current activity is one step they will appreciate greatly to shore up their business activities. Some observers also hold the view that the presence of a port within the region will spike up the desire of many people to bring down their businesses to the region in the light of the renewed campaign of the Igbo philosophy of “aku ruo ulo” (thinking home wards).
It was learnt that the conception of this project was a brain child of the Yar’adua administration which has now fully materialized under the governance of President Muhammadu Buhari. It remains a welcome development which is prayer answered for the people of the region who has since the years cried out for something like this.
News Echo wishes to extend its warm gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari who has kept faith in the continuity of projects he inherited from previous governments. It is on record that Buhari has continued the railway as well as agricultural projects of his successor which many leaders would ordinarily ignore with all the huge amounts invested. Like the Oliver Twist South East wants more for the region.