Former President, Olusegun Obasanjo has advised the Federal Government against using funds from government coffers to set up a new national shipping line for the country. This is even as the former Nigerian leader expressed disappointment over the current state of the maritime sector saying it has not been able to contribute the desired change to the development of the nation’s economy as its potentials are yet to be fully harnessed.
Obasanjo who was speaking yesterday at a maritime stakeholder’s forum on building a sustainable maritime sector organised by the Federal Ministry of Transport lamented how his administration in 1979 had acquired 19 new ships for the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) and how in 1999, all the ships had been mismanaged and sold-off.
He said he was pained that despite its huge potentials, Nigeria has not achieve as much success as it should and yet to take its pride of place among maritime nations.
He said, “Most countries in the early history were great countries because of their maritime sector. We are lucky; we are not a landlocked country. We have 3,000 kilometres of coast, we have inland waterways which could make transportation cheaper particularly for bulk goods. But why have we underperformed? Why have we not achieved as much as we had wanted to achieve.
“19 ships were specially built for Nigeria. We did not take delivery of some until I left office in 1979 but when we came back 20 years later in 1999; National Shipping Line has been liquidated with all the 19 ships gone including the five that were in existence before the 19 ships were added. What happened?”
While charging the Federal Government to “think out of the box”, Obasanjo identified lack of commitment, professionalism and high level of corruption as factors responsible for the demise of the nation’s former national carrier.
He said the effect of the liquidation of NNSL has been the absence of ocean going vessels to train Nigerian cadets on sea time training.
According to the former President, in building a sustainable maritime sector, stakeholders must learn from past experience and not go the way of NNSL.
“In your meeting today and tomorrow, if you want to build a sustainable maritime industry in Nigeria, we need to look back because reforms mean we want to improve.
“What did we do wrong in the past? Don’t build another national shipping line where you we need government money. Our experience with national shipping line, Nigerian Airways are heartbreaking,” he said.
Obasanjo stated that the growth of a nation’s s economy is a function of its transportation system and efficiency of its maritime industry hence, the private sector must be encouraged to take the driver seat in the development architecture of the sector.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said the Federal Government was ready to create an enabling environment for steering the maritime industry to its rightful position.
Minister of State for Transport, Senator Hadi Sirika said the outcome of the conference will help the Federal Government fashion out policies to develop the maritime sector.
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