The 2023 presidential election has come and gone; a new administration has successfully kicked off though some are still licking their wounds. But life must go on and the nation must move ahead. While commending President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for the bold steps he has taken so far in charting a new course for the country, we make haste to remind him of the prostrate condition of the maritime sector.
Nigeria’s maritime sector is facing a myriad of daunting challenges, which must be urgently addressed by the government so that the nation can derive the full benefits of its ocean economy. Of the sector’s many challenges, the poignant lack of indigenous tonnage and the progressive decay of the nation’s maritime infrastructure are paramount. Many Nigerian shipping companies have gone under. Of the more than 5,000 vessels that call at Nigerian ports every year, not one belongs to a Nigerian shipping company or flies the Nigerian flag. No Nigerian ship is involved in moving Africa’s largest economy’s crude oil to the international market either. These speak to the sorry state of shipping development in Nigeria – a situation that has led to huge capital flight and deprivation of job opportunities for our teeming seafarers. Necessary incentives must be provided and all obstacles dismantled to enable indigenous shipping operators partake fully in both coastal and international movement of cargo.
Another major challenge that President Tinubu must immediately and decisively address is the widening infrastructural deficit in the sector. The state of quay aprons at some of the nation’s major seaports and the port access roads should worry the present government. The national embarrassment and shameful gridlock on Apapa, Tin Can and Onne port roads should be tackled with seriousness and tenacity. Repairing the Oshodi-Apapa Expressway, the East-West Road and other access roads to the ports across the country should be a matter of priority for the Tinubu administration. Rail linkage to the port should also be prioritised. Nigerians and the Nigerian economy have suffered enough under the weight of poor port access roads. The toll bad port access roads have taken on human lives and businesses cannot be quantified. The menace of trucks and tankers that destroy these roads, and convert them to their packing lots should be permanently checked this time. The Federal Government has what it takes to keep errant trucks and tankers off the road in order to ameliorate the sufferings of motorists and commuters.
Nigeria’s maritime industry is a huge revenue earner for the government. Therefore, no effort must be spared in repositioning it for improved productivity. The Tinubu administration must, therefore, begin to think out of the box. First, the administration must do away with the old guard; those that manned the sector on behalf of the government for the past eight years clearly have little or nothing to contribute to its development. There is a compelling need to appoint a new set of leaders with proven track record of competence and ability, to reposition the sector of optimal performance.
The President should note that Nigerians will not be disposed to tolerating blame games from his government.
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