There is high expectation as the Federal Executive Council recently approved the procurement of one water weed clearing multi-purpose equipment for N278.1bn.

This comes as concerns continued to mount over the spate of seaweeds growth on Nigeria’s inland waters, posing huge threat to sea food and water transportation. Apart from coastal communities in Lagos State, anxiety has heightened in more than 50 coastal communities of Bayelsa State over the strange plants.

Although the FEC approval came a few weeks ago, it was learnt that the contract was awarded for Procurement of 1No. Water Weed Clearing Multipurpose Equipment in 2013 to ALPHA BOATS UNLIMITED/ FIRST INDEX PROJECT AND SERVICES LIMITED at the cost of N278,122,527.53 made up of USD1,321,020.89 payable at the prevailing exchange rate at the time of payment.

The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, who announced the approval after the weekly FEC meeting, said the procurement was aimed at improving safety on the inland waterways. The cost includes payable taxes, $1.3bn and additional N73.6bn.

According to him, the equipment would aid navigation and boost economic activities in the various riverside communities across the country. It would also rid the waterways of hyacinth and other aquatic weeds.

He said, “The project will increase economic activities within the coastal areas and prevent boat mishaps. The project will create job opportunities for 15 skilled and nine unskilled Nigerians during the period of its execution.”

The predominantly marshy and low-lying Bayelsa state reportedly has the longest coastal shoreline in the country. Among the troubled communities are Brass, which is host to one of the nation’s oil export terminal, Koluama 1 and 2, part of which has been lost to the sea; Ekeni, Fishtown, Foropah, Ezetu 1 and 2, Sangana and Agge on the western flank of the state.

For the natives of these communities, fishing is no longer a lucrative business due to pollution and strange weeds. Instead of harvesting fish, it was learnt that that the fishermen were contending with strange weeds, which most times, destroy their fishing gears.

Disturbed by the plight of the communities, a group, National Coalition on Gas Flaring and Oil Spills in the Niger Delta, NACGOND, had threatened to drag oil giant, Chevron Nigeria Limited, CNL, to the International Court of Justice over failure to pay adequate compensation to the people in the wake of the company’s rig explosion of 2012, which destroyed their environment.

The national coordinator of the coalition, Father Edward Obi, lamented that the palliative promised by Mr. President when he visited months after the blowout occurred, have not materialized, leaving the people in sorrow and pains.

Environmental activist, Alagoa Morris of the Environmental Right Action, ERA, who called for urgent action to safeguard the communities, saying this is why they are sending a clear message to Chevron that they cannot run from accountability for their environmental crimes in the Niger Delta region.

He also called on the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, to intervene by setting up a technical committee aimed at seeking proper redress and adequate compensation for the hapless communities that have continued to bear the aftermath of the explosion.

“The governor should reignite his initial passion against Chevron’s attitude on what he termed environmental terrorism,” he said.

A maritime stakeholder who pleaded anonymity, said he just hope the government truly procures the weed clearing equipment, saying that the rate the weeds growth across the country is alarming.

“If nothing is done fast, there is a big problem. Although I heard it that government approved such a huge amount of money to buy one equipment, I just hope and pray they truly purchase the equipment and not just a political statement. In fact, we need the equipment to start work urgently,” he said.

Many residents of Ikorodu who work on the Lagos Island prefer to travel on water to their offices in Ebute Ero, CMS or Lekki, in order to beat the traffic gridlock that has become a permanent feature at the Ikorodu-Mile 12 Road.

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