In the quest for robust economic development in Southeast Nigeria, Capt. Evarest Nnaji addressed the pressing issue of seaports and their feasibility in the region during the Aviation Career Meet at Coal City University in Enugu on August 24, 2023.
Capt. Nnaji began by highlighting the immense potential of Ndigbo, both at home and in the diaspora, to contribute significantly to the economic growth of the Southeast. He emphasized the need for a well-thought-out strategy to harness this potential, steering the region towards industrialization and commercialization.
One common misconception that Capt. Nnaji sought to dispel is the belief that the presence of a seaport is a prerequisite for the Southeast to become an industrial or commercial hub. He pointed out that this notion is based on a fallacy and can be misleading. There has been a long-standing narrative suggesting the possibility of establishing seaports in Igboland, particularly the Onitsha Seaport. However, he argued that this is not a realistic proposition.
The River Niger, which runs through the Southeast, is gradually drying up due to global warming, making it unsuitable for ocean-going ships. Even proposed dredging would not solve this issue, as it cannot increase the water flow sufficiently. The massive excavation required to create a seaport from Onitsha to the Atlantic Ocean is financially and environmentally unrealistic.
Moreover, the presence of critical national assets such as oil and gas pipelines in the Bayelsa and Delta States poses further challenges to establishing a seaport in Onitsha.
Capt. Nnaji underscored the importance of modern air travel in today’s globalized world. He argued that Southeast Nigeria has the necessary infrastructure to support efficient air cargo transportation, with airports like Enugu, Owerri, Anambra, and Ebonyi well-equipped for this purpose.
He highlighted the advantages of air freight, such as its speed and flexibility, enabling businesses to move goods and services quickly and efficiently. While ocean freight may offer cost advantages, air cargo’s frequency allows for higher overall profits.
In conclusion, Capt. Nnaji encouraged a shift in focus from seaports to investing in the development of existing airport infrastructure and training the region’s youth in aviation-related fields. He stressed that the aviation industry offers numerous career opportunities and could be the key to fast-tracking economic development in Southeast Nigeria. By embracing aviation and nurturing a skilled workforce, the region can attract investments and secure its place in the West African market.
Capt. Nnaji commended the organizers of the Aviation Career Meet at Coal City University for their efforts in bringing aviation education and training to the Southeast, emphasizing the importance of this initiative in propelling the region’s development.