The new Minister has been in the maritime industry for a very long time, serving in leadership positions at the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), so he knows a lot happening in the sector already. He is not a novice. This administration does not have time on their hands, so they need to act fast without any delay. This means the new Ministers must get their priorities right. They have to settle down quickly. Senator Gbemisola Saraki was in Lagos and she toured port facilities and I know a lot of things were penned down that she is to do. I would suggest that the new ministers look into it and begin work immediately. So all the efforts put would not go down the drain.
The new Ministers must settle down quickly to achieve a lot in the maritime industry. They don’t have time on their side, but we expect them to achieve so much because of the experience of the Minister of Transportation who previously served in the maritime industry. The new Minister of Transportation, Alhaji Mu’azu Sambo, should immediately commence procedure for the disbursement of the $350 million Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF). If the Minister will not commence procedure to disburse the CVFF, then he should make legislative effort to cancel the fund. The maritime industry missed a golden opportunity to disburse the fund seven years ago, we shouldn’t repeat such mistake. The fund is a ttwo-percent contribution of indigenous ship owners in the maritime industry, and it’s time it is disbursed. Without ships, Nigeria is disadvantaged. Without ships, what will agencies like NIMASA and NPA be doing? An agency like the NPA keeps outsourcing dredging operations to foreign companies every year, thereby increasing the amount of capital flight lost to such exercises. It is time indigenous capacity is improved in Nigeria’s maritime sector.
Dr. MkGeorge Onyung
The Minister of Transportation in the person of Mu’azu Sambo has little or no time for festivities with numerous transport issues in need of timely intervention. He needs to quickly study some of the activities and recommendations of his predecessors at the Ministry; especially submissions drawn from robust engagements with industry stakeholders. This is time to work and he would have to work twice as hard as the previous minister and with limited time to write his name in the sands of time in Nigeria’s transport sector.
There are numerous concerns at the seaports, railway, inland waterways, shipping, seafaring, freight forwarding, among others. We are looking up to him with high expectations as someone who has already delivered commendably in his previous roles in the transport sector. With his experience in the maritime, he has the knowledge. He should engage stakeholders and get statistics from them in order to know their priority. As a matter of fact, implementation of the priorities would be faster and easier. Also, when the former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), Haasan Bello hosted International Monetary Fund (IMF) some of the factors identified why Nigeria is not recognized as a maritime nation is lack of infrastructure, lack of single window among others. The minister should also take note of all these.
The priority of the new Minister of Transportation should be to execute laid down plans to accelerate development in the sector. No room for much chances as the time permits, but to harness all that was left undone and swiftly strategies to kick off. To this end, the new Minister, Mua’zu Sambo, will do great following his track record.
The priority of the new Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, in the coming months is to work and coordinate with relevant government parastatals and agencies to ensure safety for Nigerians moving via various means of transports. With the abduction of some Nigerians in the Kaduna train attack, the safety of travelling via trains has been called into question. Rising costs has made traveling via aeroplanes unaffordable for many and boat mishaps in cities like Lagos has made many shun this means of transport in a city often affected by traffic. With his previous experience in the maritime sector and other areas, it is hoped that through his leadership he will proffer solutions to the many challenges in the transport sector, or at least begin to develop a blue print for the future.
The priority of the Minister of Transportation as far as the country’s maritime industry is concerned is the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF). The fund is long overdue. It should be disbursed to Nigerian ship owners who are the rightful owners. This is because it would generate employment to Nigerians. One of his priorities is to haste up the construction of the port access roads. The construction is too slow. He should swing into action.
The major problem we have in the industry is that government doesn’t carry stakeholders along in policy formulations. There are so many problems him and his assistant will need to look into, one of which is the roads. The government is making billions from the ports yet it is difficult for the government to fix the roads. It is also expected that he looks into why the cost of doing business at our ports still remains the highest all over the world because we can’t continue to suffer. So, he will need to synergize with stakeholders because they are the ones wearing the shoe and know where it hurts because if he goes to the government agencies, they will never tell him the truth because they are the beneficiaries of all these challenges we are facing today. The challenges are enormous so also are the expectations but we hope that he will be able to face all these problems headlong within his short period in administration and if he must achieve results, he must synergise with key stakeholders.
First and foremost, concession of the ports should be renewed. Also, the past minister, Rotimi Amaechi focused on railway construction, I will implore the new Minister to tilt his attention to water transportation.
The maritime industry is professionalism based. The minister should be consult professionals to give him advice. He should jettison the Cabotage Act and liberalize the industry and also, he should make sure that he lets go of unfriendly trading policies and regulations.
I urge the new Minister of Transport, Mua’zu Sambo, to ensure that he uses the short time he has in the industry to address pending issues that will lead to the development of the maritime sector and the entire transport industry. Industry issues such as disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), ports infrastructure decay and sustain the successes already recorded in the war against piracy in the country Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
As you are aware, the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) which value is put at $350 million for the development of indigenous shipping has remained undisbursed for decades now. Industry stakeholders have continued to lament to no avail. Recently, the outgone Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, indicated that every effort is being made for this fund to be disbursed. The minister should ensure that the fund is disbursed during his own tenure as it is for the development of the shipping sector. The disbursement of the fund is imperative because of the gap it will fill in indigenous shipping development.
Nigeria currently is celebrating its victory for being able to win the war against piracy and armed robbery on her territorial waters and Gulf of Guinea (GoG) in the past six months. Over the years, Nigeria and other West African countries have been under attack over the despicable security crisis in the GoG until last year. This victory should be sustained to save Nigeria from the negative image abroad and surcharge from conference liners on freight rates for cargoes destined for the country. Furthermore, the National Transport Commission (NTC), which expected assent by the President failed about three years ago, is back on the drawing board. The new minister should ensure to push this bill more seriously at the various levels where it is currently, for it to sail through again and be accented by the President.
I must say that the needs of the industry cannot be exhausted, and therefore please minister, I want to urge you to engage experts for necessary advice on the best you can do within the shortest time left.
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