•Seaports, Airports, Rail, Road, Still
“How can you be in a river and wash your hands with saliva”
By Isaac Orieka
When Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, a former House of Assembly Speaker, Rivers State Governor, and then Director-General of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Presidential Campaign Organisation, was sworn in as Minister of Transportation, on November 11, 2015, a set of agenda were put before him to overhaul and revive aviation, rail, and maritime sectors under the purview of his ministry.
The motive of his appointment was to explore every detail in those agencies by working simultaneously with President Muhammadu Buhari’s federal government’s requirement policy in up scaling new innovations, single standard censorship in strategic areas that require immediate attention, for sustainability, growth and the CHANGE slogan of the APC from 2015 – 2018 to assure Nigerians of their beliefs in the government to attract foreign investors to the country. “By consolidating the gains of the sectors for national and economic developments”.
There were early signs that Rt.Hon. Amaechi may not be re-appointed as a Minister in the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT) due to the permutation of political opposition forces to weaken his automatic endorsement for a confirmation in President Buhari’s second tenure which he got re-elected for four years (2019 – 2023). However, bookmakers were shocked that Hon. Amaechi retained his portfolio as a Minister with no visible opposition from the PDP camp and other APC interested candidates.
With his confirmation as a minister alongside 35 others by the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly, critics, key stakeholders, maritime and aviation experts transporters have expressed knocks concerning his performance in the last four years to move the industry to attain consistency locally with new programmes and agenda which his predecessors could not meet in terms of efficiency in discovering issues that needed premium attention in his capacity as the helmsman overseeing the affairs of a strategically important industry.
Continuing, industry maritime operators, concessioner’s, terminal users, freight forwarders, government agencies such as Nigerian Ports Authorities (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASSA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Ship owners, Sea Terminal Operators of Nigeria (STOAN), have emphatically stressed that government and regulatory agencies should be streamlined in their duties and operations at the ports.
The charge was made known during a recent transport/maritime briefing clearly to avoid confusion in the business of clearing goods, multiple regulations and cases of duty overlap. An analyst put it straight that Nigeria is losing well over One Billion and even Trillions of naira on a daily basis due to intractable access roads from every angle leading to the Apapa seaports, loading terminals etc; which has accounted to poor profit taking by truckers and other end port users including revenue generating agencies.
Even though, unlike other ministries, the Ministry of Transportation is not only wide and complex but also technical in its operations. “The separation or not of Aviation with the Transport Ministry has made it more difficult for anyone to make any meaningful impact without an in-depth knowledge of how the transport industry works”. Says a maritime practitioner.
CHALLENGES BEFORE THE MINISTER
It has been consistently advocated that holding mega conferences, seminars, symposiums, interactive sessions, media briefings, talk shows, round table and organized discussions, tours will not turn the tide to firm up the template and return the transport industry to its commitment to grow the increase in the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Rather, practical and fierce determination and enormous project and policy implementation is necessary to sustain the potentials of the industry.
• Why has the Port and Harbour Bill not passed into law?
• Why is the Minister not harmoniously working with the National Assembly, especially the Senate committees on Maritime Transport as well as the House Committee on Maritime Safety Committee Administration and Education and Port Harbour and Water Ways to ensure the Bill is passed into law after several presentations? Or has it been passed to guide the Transport Sector?
• Also, the Minister, Mr. Amaechi, should find out why contracts worth billions of naira were awarded by his predecessors and were never delivered? He should go beyond handover notes from Permanent Secretaries, HODS, now that he is handing over to himself as the Minister for the next four years. He should not hesitate to fix the port access roads because this will rubbish every laudable step taken by him as long as port users continue to flay the inefficiency in operations and cargo clearance in the nation’s seaports.
• Traffic snarl in Apapa and its environs is the biggest problem of consolidation compared to other sub-regions in Africa. Stakeholders in the maritime industry have identified this ill for long due to the political will to do the right thing consistently. What option does the minister wish to project?
• Why is there no provision for loading bays built in Apapa, the commercial maritime hub for imports and exports?
• Again, truck owners should provide holding bays for their trucks in order not to cripple businesses in Apapa and its environs. Are they ready to co-operate to put resources together in this direction?
• Why is it that 95 percent of the loading bay is not being put into use opposite the Tincan Island Complex (TCIP)?
• Why has the Minister not ensure sanity of duties in the various government agencies under his administration?
• Amaechi, should re-jig these government agencies by saddling them with specific tasks and demand dates for delivery. He should ask specific questions and demand specific answers.
• Is Nigeria in category C in the global Maritime watchdog presently? International Maritime Organization (IMO).
• Is Nigeria currently represented in the prestigious governing council of IMO in the United Nations (UN).
• What is responsible for the neglect of the common user services as enshrined in the agreement the concessionaires signed with the federal government through the management of NPA.
• Why is it that foreign ship owners get waivers above local ship owners in spite of the provisions of the Cabotage Act 2003?.
• Why is that repeatedly previous Ministers of Transport have failed to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF)?
• The Cabotage law has failed in preventing the importation of illegal and small arms and ammunitions, contraband goods to collectively drive the system to international best practices. Who is to be blamed?
• Has the minister been able to integrate the Nigerian Insurers Association (NIA), in ensuring that the Transport Sector benefit from their patronage in terms of the bond and advantages spelt out in their operating procedures?
How did we move from being Africa’s largest economy in 2012, 2013 and 2014 and the third world fastest growing nation to now the “Poverty Capital” of the world with over 80million people living below poverty level with no hope of migrating from poverty at 59 in 2019, approaching 60 years of independence by year 2020?
The home grown truth is that there is a fundamental level of incompetency in the administration of the Transport sector where money would have been invested in the Train-the-trainee project as a veritable platform to scale up a bright generation of professionals possessing skills to strengthen the industry or recognized the world over with a manner for operational safety and human capital development.
Aviation Not Yet Uhuru
Despite the fact that aviation has witnessed a fair share of the good, the bad and the ugly none is strong enough to shake its foundation in terms of aviation safety and security in 2018. The 2019 Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has lived up to its responsibility as the policeman of a critical sector.
Life is like a beautiful spirit, where winning and losing is not just enough but a space for vibrant and result-oriented navigation to confront huge and difficult tasks.
Factors Threatening Aviation
Visibility, it is not all rosy for the sector, as passenger confidence in air travel has increased recently compared to when aircrafts were dropping from the skies in the past. Like the global aviation Industry. It has witnessed a huge leap in aviation safety and security. However, there are some grey areas to be addressed.
• Why are the airports dirty?
• Obsolete and decaying infrastructure
• Domestic airlines complain of lack of support from the federal government
• High cost of insurance premium
• Fluctuating prices of aviation fuel
• Inadequate infrastructure and facility rot
• Airports runways lack airfield lighting
• Lack of adequate boarding gates at major airports and high airport charges and taxes – Corruption and sharp practices related to most airports nationwide contribute to inefficiency.
• Most airports also lack perimeter fencing for safe landing e.g Bayelsa airport.
• Navigational facilities not up to international upgrade. NAMA, NCAA, Local and foreign airlines at logger heads over control.
• Criticisms over the suspension of a national carrier. Question, does every country need a National Carrier? President Buhari and Hon. Amaechi should tell us what went wrong in the process of establishing a new flag bearer, like Ethopia and Rwanda, etc.
• A lot falls on Amaechi to partner with the Works Ministry to fix the gridlock in Apapa for sanity and free flow of trucks in and outside the ports. The show of shame is becoming too obvious to ignore.
• Why is it that unidentified uniform policemen/touts/Agberos set barricades on street roads, highways to demand money to allow trucks into the ports via one-way?
• Is there no zero level tolerance for extortion on our ports access roads?
• Why is the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), always reneging on its agreement with the terminal operators and Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN)?
• Why is Niger Dock not functioning to its optional 100 percent performance in ship building and maintenance capacity currently? Is it another failed privatization project?
• Why is it that dock workers intermittently go on strikes, laid off without adequate compensation and severance benefits. Due to Customs and FG strict maritime policies.
• Ship registration by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is still going through procedure delays. Ship owners query the process, what is responsible?
Rail-Roading Nigeria beyond NEXT LEVEL
“A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy”
In his democracy day speech on June 12, 2019. President Muhammadu Buhari said, “We will take steps to integrate rural economies to the national economic platform by extending access to small scale credits and inputs to rural farmers, credit to rural micro-businesses and opening up many feeder roads. This is a move to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years. Good proposal on paper.
In relation to the above, the Nigerian Railway System is one of the chief driver of the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT) set up by an Independent entity created by an Act on October 1, 1955 with an objective on goods and passenger carriage, designed to enhance trade for rail users, commerce, industries and the public including employment drive by closing the gap of the south-south, north-east, south-east, Niger-Delta through affordable fare for the masses and opening up the geo-political rural committees for economic development.
The Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), is knowingly disobeying its prime and foremost responsibility as espoused in the act of its establishment by the federal government. However, as earlier observed all eminently successful economies worldwide presently rigidly enforce real market dynamics to avoid economic distortions which will constrain growth and pauperize the rural and city people.
Consequentially, beyond the ideal of national interest and patriotism, it is obviously worrisome that the discretionary construction of railway projects across the nation is not stimulated to deeply suggest that such projects are a mechanism for a free flow of consumer demands, industrial expansion and job opportunities.
Unfortunately, despite the celebration of the construction of standard gauge lines by the NRC in some parts of Nigeria, the Niger Delta region is incurable neglected to favour a section of the country through the power of leadership abiding by a short lived prediction of who is in charge.
Invariably, the execution of these projects is based on so many factors, which are:
• The high cost of borrowing and further naira devaluation.
• Casualisation of labour and industrial contraction by foreign firms like CECC
• Borrowing is irritational, which involves lending money below inflationary rates.
• In effect, the NRC sits idly and allows the money lenders to determine all financial aspects of the contractual agreement to favour them.
• Consciously, the Chinese firm CECC has colonized the NRC with a high percentage of its construction rail technical partners unleashed with high dollar denominated allowances, while Nigerian workers become poorer despite increasing dollar reserves in the CBN’s custody?
• Why is there no direct demand and construction of railway lines to Niger Delta region. Edo, Benin, Delta, Warri, Sapelle, Isoko, Asaba, Ughelli, Patani, Bayelsa, Rivers, Yenagoa, Port-Harcourt, Cross River, Akwa-Ibom, when we have a sitting Minister Mr. Rotimi Amaechi presiding as the enterprising manager of the Transport Ministry.
• On 3rd December, 2019, President Buhari launched the University of Transport sited in Katsina, in partnership with the CECC a technical organization to make sure the institute comes alive why is Katsina a better place for the University?
Mr. Amaechi, should run the race of rail construction in this region without distraction, because we are all involved, so make small decisions that can make an ever bigger difference in the region. “Finishing well” in this tenure is it.
Parastatals like NNPC, CBN, NCC, have scholarship schemes for brilliant Nigerians, does the NRC ordinarily have a scholarship scheme to encourage brilliant engineering students, inspite of the huge financial support from the federal government?
As an agent of change, and now next level what conscious plan does the NRC have for the post oil economy in Nigeria? Without the huge financial support from the federal government and its foreign technical partners can the NRC survive the business of rail transport as we know abroad?
Rating of Seaports Across the World
The port of Shangai, the biggest in the world, processed 744 million tones of cargo in 2012, the Ship Global Technology Magazine commended the organization for Economic Cooperation and Development states that many global seaports are targeting efficient operations on the back of new technologies rating terminals in China, Netherlands and other Asian countries as the best performers. Ports in Dubai, Rotterdam and Singapore have adopted the Internet of things, advanced, sensors, automatic positioning, equipment intelligent diagnosis, cargo monitoring and vessel arrival, forecasting and cloud computing, among others, to enhance their operations, says maritime website, safety 4 sea.
Where is Apapa and other seaports in Nigeria rated with statistics and what is its position in Africa today?
Independence launched Nigeria as a self governing entity with plenty of human aspirations, for the future and enough natural and human development, to fulfill the endowments we possess.
Six decades later, most Nigerians agree the country has performed below her installed capacity. Poor leadership has been cited for the lost opportunities and wasted potentials which has left our country still struggling to provide the bare necessities to citizens.
Yes, Independence Day is important, and we must continue to celebrate it. The day represents the ideals our founding father of all tribes and creeds believed in and fought for. The prize for Independence has not been actualized in all context of our lives. The APC is like NAPOLEON, they are always right, they abuse, and bark and bite at any contrary opposition. Even where it is obvious the government is wrong.
Without an institutionalized, holistic approach, the fight against looting and other forms of corruption will remain vague, tepid and ineffectual. Granted the maximum rulers are helping themselves to the public till, It should be noted that Nigerians are no longer swayed by the false performance claims of the Buhari administration. “It is easy to run your mouth during campaign and make bogus promises but when push comes to shove, water must find its level. The history books are there to judge.