Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo flagged off the hydrographic survey and dredging of Oguta Lake and Orashi River in Oguta Local Government Area of Imo on Thursday.
The dredging of the river will link Imo to Degema in Rivers and to the Atlantic Ocean.
Speaking at the ceremony on the bank of the Oguta/Orashi River, Osinbajo said the project would connect waterways to hinterlands and expand Nigeria’s shipping and agricultural sectors.
He added that it would also expand Nigeria‘s free trade zone and facilitate her contribution to trade in Africa and the world.
He enjoined Nigerians to cooperate with Imo government and with the Nigerian Navy to ensure that the project came to fruition.
“Today marks an important milestone in the economic development of Imo; the Southeast and Nigeria at large and could not have come at a better time than now,’’ he said.
In his remarks, Imo’s Gov. Hope Uzodimma thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his support in the recovery of Imo from the hands of bandits.
He said the project would be executed through a public-private partnership and would create additional employment opportunities for Imo people.
“This project is a harbinger of several other multifaceted projects encapsulated in the socioeconomic development of Imo with capacity to equip the Southeast with a robust and self-sufficient economy.
“We shall establish an industrial cluster in the area to aid economic activities. Imo and the private sector will fund the project in synergy with the Nigerian Navy,’’ he said.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor thanked President Buhari for the leverage to build the capacity of the Nigerian Navy and the military at large.
Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Adm. Awwal Gambo, in his remarks said the project would provide the enabling environment for wealth generation and movement of goods and services.
He called for a quick dredging of the access route and also thanked President Buhari for the provision of effective hydrographic services.
He also thanked Mr Uzodimma for partnering with the Nigerian Navy and called on the host communities to protect and preserve the legacy.
President-General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu described the dredging as a dream come true and urged government to speedily actualise the project.
“Ndigbo are happy; Igbo are grateful. Igbo people in the diaspora are ready to contribute to the funding of the project if need be,’’ he said.
Mr Iwuanyanwu said also that the Igbo people had no intention of seceding from Nigeria.
He pleaded with President Buhari to actualise the release of detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu before the end of his tenure.
The event was attended by prominent traditional rulers including the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Alfred Achebe and the Ooni of Ife, Oba Adeyeye Ogunwusi.
Other dignitaries were Minister for Trade and Investments, Alhaji Muazu Sambo; former Imo governor, Chief Ikedi Ohakim and former Chairman of INEC, Prof. Maurice Iwu