The presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party ((NNPP) Sen. Rabiu Kwankwaso, has pledged to ensure that professionals who possess requisite knowledge and experience are appointed to take charge of the nation’s maritime sector if elected President in the forthcoming 2023 general election.
Kwankwaso, who made the pledge at a town-hall meeting with maritime stakeholders organised by Prime Maritime Project said this is imperative as only operators with insiders’ perspective know how best to revamp the sector, saying it would no longer be business as usual.
He said, “I can assure you that it will no longer be business as usual. Under our watch, maritime professionals will take charge of the maritime sector.
“Operators of the maritime industry know where it pinches the most and certainly have their insider perspective on how best to revamp the sector. We will continue to tap into that insider-knowledge to have a better understanding of the challenges so as to continue to fine-tune our proposed policies.
“In the end, we must all agree that this very important sector must be back on its feet and must be given the chance to support the growth and development of our country in the overall interest of our citizens.”
Kwankwaso explained that though the NNPP has a robust economic blueprint, in which maritime and transport logistics are incorporated, his meeting with industry stakeholders was due to his conviction that “maritime is a critical element to the growth, survival and prosperity of Nigeria.
He said his experience over the years as a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, former Governor, former Minister of Defense and a former Senator has availed him with some basic understanding of the sector and especially some of its challenges as he noted that so many things have gone wrong in the nation’s maritime domain.
In his words, “I can still remember the days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) with its beautiful ships flying Nigeria’s flag across the globe. Why did it die? Why do we not have a replacement as the giant of Africa?
“What has become of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)? Why has it not been disbursed to the beneficiaries? From my little knowledge of the sector, a lot of questions are begging for answers.”
Describing the traffic congestion on the Apapa port access roads as an eyesore and a lack of planning for the future, Kwankwaso said if the party wins in the 2023 election, his administration will ensure the construction of rail line from both Apapa and Tin Can port to dry port locations outside Lagos where goods should be domiciled for clearance.
“Sometimes ago, I was in Apapa and was stunned at the spectacle of articulated trucks lining the ljora Bridge. To me, it was an unacceptable eyesore in a twenty-first century Nigeria. I was even made to understand that I came when things had improved. This is highly unacceptable.
“It goes to show that we rarely plan for the future. A port system originally designed for a population of less than 50 million people in the 1950s with less than 2.0 million cargo throughputs has remained almost the same for more than 200 million population in 2022. When a country’s population is increasing at geometric progression and port infrastructure remains static, the resultant effect is chaos. To me, that is the cause of the ljora Bridge debacle and other issues.
“Our government will look into constructing a rail line from both Apapa and Tin Can Island ports to a dry port area outside Lagos, where arrived goods should be domiciled for clearance in order to stop heavy trucks from causing gridlock in Lagos.
“We should also look into the possibility of opening other ports such as Warri, Port Harcourt and Calabar, among others, to decongest the Lagos port.
“It is also my desire to see that the Customs and other regulatory agencies must be made to perform efficiently and effectively. The observed high-level corruption in the system has to be tackled to improve the productivity in the ports,” he said.
Kwankwaso also stressed the need to have an effective border checks and control to stem the tide of smuggling and its related security implications adding that the desired assistance to all importers of goods, manufacturers including exporters and other ancillary stakeholders associated with port operations and management will be guaranteed under his administration.
Earlier, Chairman of the occasion, Otunba Kunle Folarin, had enumerated the rot in the sector, regretting the incessant changes in the leadership of maritime regulatory agencies and the supervising ministry, which are often headed by appointees that have no knowledge of the industry, which adversely affects its growth.
Folarin proposed the establishment of a separate ministry of Maritime Affairs to address the challenges with the Cabotage regime, non-disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) and poor incentives for indigenous operators, among others.
Founder and Chairman, Board of Trustees of the NNPP, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam said that NNPP was entering into a social contract with maritime stakeholders to bring about a new order.
He said that NNPP had been working quietly and setting up structures to create a new order in the maritime sector and the country.
Aniebonam urged the stakeholders to be part of the journey to the emergence of a new Nigeria and start work from the inside to build a new Nigeria.
“We can no longer operate from the outside; we have to operate from the inside and we have to work for it. Hold me responsible for the implementation of the social contract we are having with stakeholders in the maritime sector,” he said.
The Chief Operating Officer, Prime Maritime Project, Elder Asu Beks, said the initiative, the first in its series, which will be availed all presidential candidates, was meant to extract a social contract from them on their plans and commitment to placing the maritime sector in the front burner as a major economy driver.