The Imo State government has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Naval authorities on the access development project of the Oguta/ Urashi river.
The MOU, largely technical agreement, was signed by representatives of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awaal Zubairu Gambo and the Imo State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Barr. COC Akaolisa, before Governor Hope Uzodimma of Imo State on Thursday at the New Exco Chamber.
The Navy team was led by, Rear Admiral Sileranda Lassa, Group Managing Director/ CEO, Navy Holdings Limited (a consortium of 11 companies) and Rear Admiral C.E Okafor, the Navy Hydrographer.
The pact marks a critical milestone towards the mapping, dredging and expansion of the Imo Waterways into the sea.
While expressing his happiness at the signing ceremony, Governor Uzodimma said: “God in his wisdom surrounded Imo State with navigable waters which have not been exploited. Access to the sea, is access to good economy and good economy brings access to good life.”
The Governor said when the access is opened, the Nigerian Navy in Oguta will not only navigate the waterways in pursuit of illegal crude oil bunkers, but will “enhance commercial maritime activities.”
“We will make sure that natural resources meant to enhance our national economy is stimulated and Imo State will tap from the benefits of this project,” Governor Uzodimma added.
He used the opportunity to reiterate his gratitude to President Muhammadu Buhari for giving a listening ear to all his requests that were geared towards enhancing the socio-economic wellbeing of the people of Imo State.
Governor Uzodimma said “the MOU marks a technical milestone towards the mapping, dredging and expansion of the Imo Waterways into the High Sea which is less than 9 to 10 nautical miles or just 100kms to the Atlantic Ocean.”
He congratulated Imo people for being part of the signing of the MOU, noting that “over the years Imo State was seen as being landlocked whereas God in his infinite mercy surrounded Imo State with navigable waters which has not been exploited.”
The Governor thanked said “when the noble idea was conceived, the Nigerian Navy accepted it and Mr. President cued into it by first approving the establishment of a Naval Base at Oguta.”
Continuing he said, ” when the access is opened Nigerian Navy in Oguta will not only navigate the waterways in pursuit of illegal oil bunkers but will enhance commercial maritime activities along that axis by increasing the economic activities and improving the economy of the State.”
He reiterated his resolve at ensuring that natural resources meant to enhance Imo economy are stimulated and for Imo State to tap from the benefits of such projects.
Navy Captain A.N Umaru, the Commander, Naval Base, Oguta said they were detailed by their superior bosses to carry out the all important signing assignment with the Imo State government.
The leader of the team, Rear Admiral Lassa said the Nigerian Navy Holdings Limited, is the Marine Engineering Services arm of the Navy, with highly motivated professionals leveraging military core competencies and assets to provide efficient service delivery through strategic partnerships, effective coordination and administration in line with corporate best practices.
He said opening up the waterways will be of great benefits to both the Navy and Imo State, and recalled that the MOU they signed was a follow up on their earlier visit to Imo State two months ago and the gains recorded from the visit.
He said that during their earlier visit and trip on the seabed it was discovered that from Lokoja to Buruti is about 500 kilometers,while that of Oguta Lake is less than 100 kilometers.
Lassa said opening up the economic activities on the corridor will as well impact the security situation in the area.
Lassa had explained that the idea of opening up the waterways it is purely an initiative and desire of the Imo State Government aimed at “enhancing the economy of Imo State and reducing crime and criminality in the area especially oil theft, kidnapping, and banditry along the water creeks.”
He used the opportunity to thank Governor Uzodimma on the cordial relationship that exists between the State, the Naval base at Oguta and the Navy Office at Owerrinta.
The Deputy Governor, Prof. Placid Njoku, the Secretary the State Government, Chief Cosmas Iwu, the Chief of Staff, Barr. Nnamdi Anyaehie,vmembers of the expanded Executive Council and the Chairman, Imo State Elders Council, HRH Eze Dr. Cletus Ilomuanya witnesed the occasion.