This is an evaluative study of Inland Waterway Transport Development in Nigeria. Three
sets of 5 point Likert Scale questionnaire were crafted for the study for the following
categories of respondents; National Inland Water Authority (NIWA) Staff, Ferry Operators
and the Inhabitants respectively. Five research questions and five hypotheses were also
formed for the study. Data collected were analyzed with descriptive and inferential statistics
such as mean procedure and One-way Anova. The results of the study reveals the following:
the extent of government commitment in the development of the inland development in
Nigeria is generally low; the extent of the implementation of inland water policies by NIWA
staff is also low; the extent of ferries/boat usage in the inland water transportation in Nigeria
was fairly high; the extent of the impact of the NIWA activities on ferry operation in the
study was also low; there were no significant differences in the extent of implementation of
inland water policies by the NIWA management in the locations sampled in the study;
finally, there were also no significant differences in the level of development in the inland
water transport in Nigeria. Conclusively, the findings of the study collectively show that the
inland water transport in Nigeria is under developed. As a result of the above findings, the
following recommendations are made: There should be concerted effort to ensure that the
budget made for inland water development in Nigeria is judiciously utilized; the right man
power should be employed by NIWA as one of the measures to ensure that Inland Water
Transport Policies are implemented; Security of life and property in the Inland Waterways
should be guaranteed so that boat ferrying would be safe for the ferries, customers and
goods which will in turn attract investors to the area. Finally, Research and Development
Department of NIWA should form synergy with research centers so that recent developments
in Inland Water transportation would easily be discovered for onward implementation.
Key Words: Inland Water Transport, Inland Water Development, NIWA, Ferry Operators,
ports and Jetties
1.1 Background of Study
Inland waterways are any navigable or potentially navigable body of water, such as
a river, channel, canal, or other routes for travel by water away from the coast or
shore line. It usually refers to the bodies of water in the interior parts of a country
or region. Inland Water Transport therefore refers to movement of goods or
persons via inland water (canals, rivers, lakes etc.) between inland ports or quays
and wharfs. Inland waterways constitute of natural or artificial navigable inland
body of water, or system of interconnected bodies of water, used for transportation,
may include a lake, river, canal, or any combination of these.
The existence of waterways has been an important factor in the development of
regions; waterways have served first as paths of exploration and new settlement
and later as avenues of commerce and trade. Although slower than rail, road, and
air transport, water transport is less expensive and accommodates such bulk
cargoes as coal, ores, grain, and lumber. Navigation on waterways may be
improved by the construction of canals, dams, locks, levees, and dikes.
Inland waterways vary in size from shallow barge-carrying rivers and canals to the
deep seaways that accommodate oceangoing vessels. Waterways are often of
international importance, either because they border or run through more than one
country or because other nations wish to use them for trade; a number of these
waterways have been internationalized. For purposes of navigation, irrigation, and
flood control, humans have changed the natural flow of waterways. The
consequences of such changes have often led to excessive erosion or an increase in
In order for an inland waterway to be navigable, it must meet several criteria like:
The waterway must be deep enough to allow the draft depth of the vessels
The waterway must be wide enough to allow passage for the beam width of
the vessels using it. The waterway must be free of barriers to navigation
such as waterfalls and rapids, or have a way around them (such as canal
locks and boat lifts)
The current of the waterway must be mild enough to allow vessels to make
An efficient Inland Water Transport (IWT) system plays a critical and positive role
in the economic life of any country. Every country should realize the importance of
the relationship between good and functional multimodal IWT systems in their
economic development. IWT cost effectiveness and development of remote
communities in several countries and in Nigeria in particular cannot be over
emphasized. In many instances these advantages can be gained with little or no
improvement to existing waterways (World Bank, 2002). There is this belief that
the use of IWT in Nigeria has not yet reached its full potential due to lack of
adequate investment in the sector over many years. All year round use of larger
vessels may have been impeded in some channels by monsoon-related draft
reductions and lack of adequate depths and absence of navigational aids.
Throughout the world, most waterways tend to be owned and administered as
public goods. Cost recovery mechanisms typically include a range of vessel
licensing fees, river port dues, navigation fees, and lock and other sundry charges.
These revenues are rarely sufficient to cover all the costs of public resources, but
these costs are usually very small compared with other modes in absolute terms
and in proportion to traffic handled. The effective utilization of inland waterway
transport generally depends on investment in and upkeep of the navigation
infrastructure (dredging, navigation aids, locks, etc.); together with an institutional regime that encourages an efficient and competitive private barging industry. The
future of inland waterway transport must depend principally on its performance in
serving transport markets. It is not in the interest of any country to over invest
where demand by suitable traffic is lacking or to force usage of inland waterways
against customer preference. Nonetheless, even though waterways generally need
much less capital investment and maintenance than other transport modes, they
have been rather neglected in many countries including Nigeria, despite evident
demand, potentials and utilization. This is a pity, not only because of the economic
advantages of efficient barge services in appropriate markets, but also because of
the lesser environmental impacts from inland water transport than from competing
modes. Apart from larger-scale commercial barging, inland waterways are often
the first link in the transport chains faced by poor riparian communities. Large
numbers of country boats in certain regions are crucial to the livelihoods of
ordinary citizens as they depend on IWT for their livelihood and their access to
health, education, and social services.
In Nigeria, the National Transport Policy (1993) recognized the IWT as the
cheapest transport mode in the areas of mass bulk commodity movement over long
distances as well as an efficient mode of transportation of persons especially for some rural communities in the Niger Delta, coastal areas and other parts of
Nigeria. The National Transport Policy (1993) therefore recognized the need for
the development of the nation’s vast network of inland waterways in a multimodal
fashion to complement other modes of transportation. Significant underfunding in
the IWT sector has caused the infrastructure and floating equipment to deteriorate
badly, and reduced the net size of the navigable network considerably. The lack of
a multipurpose infrastructure development approach, absence of multimodal
development approach, lack of coordination among the various ministries in charge
of infrastructure and inadequate skilled manpower etc also contributes to IWT
decline. For example, many hydropower dams have been built without consulting
other interested agencies and without providing ship locks to allow uninterrupted
IWT transport. Also bridges constructed across rivers sometimes do not take into
consideration the navigation requirements of the rivers. It is important to note that
IWT does not have the ability to function optimally as a standalone transport
mode. It can only be effectively utilized when developed and operated in a
Given Nigeria’s highly limited and congested transport environment, where the
opportunity cost of the transport is high, IWT is an extreme case of inefficiency
and neglect of a valuable resource. It is therefore, urgent to establish IWT sub sector development strategy. Inland Water Transport systems in Nigeria have not
yet reached their full potential despite the nation being generously endowed with
navigable and potentially navigable inland waterways but has experienced latent
capacity and inadequate investment. In all regions of Nigeria, IWT has been
neglected and remains outside the mainstream transport development planning,
often overshadowed by other sectors such as road transport, aviation etc.
Prior to independence in 1960, and thereafter, efforts have been made by the
Federal Government of Nigeria to develop and provide IWT services through the
defunct Inland Waterways Department (IWD) with limited success. Also, some
state governments with networks of inland waterways notably Rivers State, Lagos
State, etc have also made some efforts towards IWT development in their
respective states with limited and unsustainable success too. Most of the efforts
that have been made by the Federal Government of Nigeria to develop IWT
infrastructure have been concentrated on the Lower River Niger and River Benue
until recently when the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) was
created; an agency of the Federal Government of Nigeria and successor to the
defunct Inland Waterways Department (IWD) which initiated the construction of
river ports and jetties in the Niger Delta and other locations outside the Lower
River Niger and River Benue.
However, one major short coming of IWT development in Nigeria is its lack of a
multimodal approach and neglect of IWT market development.
Non sustainability of IWT services by different level of governments and private
concerns in Nigeria has resulted to the ugly state of IWT irrespective of its glaring
importance in development of the economy; which leads to the calls for a paradigm
shift in IWT development efforts and operations in Nigeria. This calls for the
adoption of new attitudes, policies, programs, guidelines, acts and regulations
corresponding to international best practices and success stories.
Sustainable development of a multimodal Inland Water Transport (IWT) requires
the improvement or further development of navigation and its related
infrastructure, while minimizing negative effects on other waterways functions and
maximizing environmental benefits. The fundamental basis for sustainability is
that proposed development or management actions should sustain those critical
processes that are necessary for the sustainable and competitive development of
IWT and services. Decisions concerning a choice of transportation mode have
historically focused on economic issues. Unfortunately, the economic competition
between various transport modes is often based on financial costs, and not
economic costs. The latter approach leads to more objective conclusions, which is
important for achieving sound strategic planning. This reinforces the need for judicious and efficient use of available scarce resources provided for IWT
development and services. Also, IWT need to be competitive in order to be
sustainable and attractive to private investments.
Consequently, the judicious and efficient use of scarce resources provided for
efficient IWT development and operations in Nigeria must be reflected in how the
IWT development and operations are planned for the future. Efficient technical and
policy frameworks must also be established to ensure decisions that promote the
sustainability of the IWT systems and the environment in which they are placed.
Sustainable development of IWT in Nigeria will require that our efforts should
mirror international best practices and success stories. Also, other national vices
should be eliminated from the sector.
In the light of this, this research evaluates the inland waterways development in
Nigeria with special emphasis on; infrastructure, markets, multimodality, social
and culture, fleet size and job creation.
1.2. Statement of the Problem
The importance of Nigeria’s vast network of inland waterways to the socioeconomic,
commercial and industrial development of the nation cannot be overemphasized.
In some parts of Nigeria, especially in the rural parts of the coast and
Niger Delta, inland waterways is the only available means of transport and their
socio-economic well being could be greatly hampered if the state of inland
waterways in the area is poor.
Nigeria has the second longest length of waterway in Africa. It has 8,600
kilometers of inland waterways and an extensive coastline of about 852 kilometers.
Nigeria centers on its longest rivers; Rivers Niger and Benue, which cut across the
country into the cardinal east, west and north sections. The two waters run into
each other at Lokoja and flow into the Atlantic Ocean. The coastal waterways
extended from Badagry region through Warri to Calabar. However, water transport
scores a distant second to road transport with an average share of about 1.6% of
Nigerian gross domestic product i.e. internally generated cargoes. Although water
transport is slow and while unsuitable for passenger movement, an efficient coastal
and inland waterways operation and system generally can minimize the pressure on
a country’s rail and road transport infrastructure. This would be of more optimum
benefits in the transportation of tones of agriculture products from the middle belts area to the Delta areas via this medium and vice-versa ; hopefully bringing about
the fall in food prices in the regions, likewise other coastal areas generated cargo
and passenger movements from and to where they are of more value and demand.
This states that Nigerian inland waterways despites its great potentials are under
prioritized and highly underdeveloped. The Federal Government currently hopes to
reverse this by signing N34.8b contract for the dredging at the lower Niger which
covers about 572 kilometers of waterways that stretches from Warri in Delta State
to Baro in Niger State in the estimated projects which is expected to be concluded
by 2010. Likewise the states in conjunction with Local Government of Lagos and
especially Imo who geared in dredging the River Nworie, although the vision is
never realized up till this moment.
The enormous coastal trade opportunities it present for indigenous shipping
companies in Nigeria overtime failed due to shipping policy in place over the
years, directed on such trade. Several policies initiatives are currently directed on
the operation and the management at the inland waterways such as the coastal and
inland shipping (cabotage) Act passed 2003. However, it is not enough a thing to
initiate policies whereas the management administration or rather the expected
enforcement pattern of such policies is not inputted.
The Nigeria population of some 140 million (census 2006), at present about 160
million, has been forecasted to increase to some 200 to 240 million by 2030 and
for 2050 a population of over 300 million has even stated. In addition, there is an
ongoing shift from southerly located industries to more central locations. Finally,
the agricultural sector is expected to be substantially improved in the near future.
As a consequence, the requirements in Nigeria will tremendously increase in the
coming decades necessitating the Government of Nigeria to strongly develop a
multi-modal system for overland transport including the Inland Waterway
However, there is no coordinated documented information on the state and
development of inland waterways in Nigeria, hence the research topic; “Evaluative
study of the development of inland waterways in Nigeria.”
1.3. Objectives of the Study
The aim of the study is to evaluate the inland waterway development in Nigeria.
Specifically, we set the following objectives:
i. To evaluate the extent of Government commitment to the development of
inland water transport in Nigeria ii. To determine the extent of implementation of inland water policies by
iii. To establish the extent to which ferries/boat are employed in water transport
in the study area.
iv. To determine the impact of NIWA activities on ferry operations in the study
v. To ascertain the extent of the impact of the activities of NIWA to the
inhabitants in the study area.
vi. To ascertain if there are significant differences in the extent of
implementation of inland water policies by the NIWA management among
the various jetties or ports sampled for the study.
vii. To determine if there are significant differences in the level of development
in the inland water ways transport in the study area.
1.4 Research Questions
i. What is the extent of Government commitment on the development of inland
water transport in Nigeria?
ii. What is the extent of implementation of inland water policies by NIWA
iii. What is the extent to which ferries/boat are employed in water transport in
the study area?
iv. What is impact of NIWA activities on ferry operation in the study area?
v. What is the extent of the impact of the activities of NIWA to the inhabitants
in the study area?
vi. Are there significant differences in the extent of implementation of inland
water ways policies by the NIWA management among the various jetties or
ports sampled for the study?
vii. Finally, are there significant differences in the level of development in the
inland water ways transport in the study area
1.5 Hypotheses for the Study
The following null hypotheses are formulated for the study:
o H01: There is no significant Government commitment to the development of
inland water transport in Nigeria
o H02: There is no significant implementation of inland water policies by
o H03: The extent to which ferries\boats are employed in water transport in the
study area is not significant.
o H04: There is no significant impact of NIWA activities on ferry operations in
the study area.
o H05: The extent of the impact of the activities of NIWA does not
significantly enhance the welfare of the inhabitants in the study area.
o H06: There are no significant differences in the extent of implementation of
inland water policies by NIWA management among the various jetties or
ports sampled in the study area.
o H07: There are no significant differences in the level of development in the
inland waterways transport in the study area.
1.6 Significance of the Study
Findings in this study will be of immense benefit to the following; Researchers,
Inland waterways operators and user, policy makers, Nigeria inland water
authority, the inhabitants of coastal regions and to all other modes of transport
operators and customers as suggested thus:
The outcome of this research will expose the prevailing problems truncating
the development IWT in Nigeria.
The findings in this study will add to the existing literature for use by
The research will expose the level of backwardness in the Nigeria inland
waterways system; hence provide road map to appropriate measures to
remedy the situation.
The operators and users of the IWT will be educated through this research to
know what is obtainable in other countries where inland waterway transport
thrives. This will enhance their level preparedness to adjust to the
anticipated positive changes in the Nigeria IWT.
It will also serve as a tool for policy makers to evolve suitable policies and
programs that will lead to the rapid development of IWT in Nigeria, thereby
enabling IWT to effectively contribute its quota to the socio-economic,
commercial and industrial growth in Nigeria
The study will help address the issue of non multimodality utilization in the
Nigeria IWT; hence suggest ways the various modes of transport could be
integrated with IWT for effective and efficient transportation of goods and
The study will make available through case studies the best practices in
inland waterways operations in other advanced countries which our country
could emulate and introduce through sound policies to the nation lessons
learnt from the experiences of countries that have successfully developed
their IWT sector.
1.7. The Scope of Study
The study was carried out only in the three states of Nigeria that constitute the
geopolitical zones of the country that inland water transport is a major means of
transport. The states are Bayelsa, Lagos and Kogi.
1.8. Limitations of the Study
The study witnessed so many limitations such as inadequate fund and limited time
to carry out this study. In some cases also the respondents were persuaded to fill or
answer the questions contained in the questionnaires. There was insufficient data,
especially to obtain secondary data for the analysis. Sometimes, the people who
were meant to release the secondary data were unwilling and skeptical to do so.
Some of the respondents, especially the native residents were illiterate to
understand and answer correctly the question in the questionnaire. This made the
gathering of the data very strenuous because of the herculean task of explaining the
content of the questionnaires to them. Sometimes also, the respondents were
tempted to give false information because of false perception of the essence of
answering the questions in the questionnaires. Some thought if they answer some
questions in certain way, it could attract favour or compensation from the
Government. Finally, the research witnessed some hick-ups because of
inaccessibility of some of the locations the research was carried out.
Above all, irrespective of the above mentioned hindrances and limitation. I am
certain that the data collected for this study will be vey adequate for the validity of
the study. We exhibited reasonable patient with the respondents to get the best of
the questions that were contained in the questionnaires.