With the appointment of Muazu Sambo and Ademola Adegoroye as the Minister of Transportation and Minister of State for Transportation respectively, stakeholders demand rapid development in the maritime sector in the remaining nine months of the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
President Muhammadu Buhari, had reshuffled his cabinet, appointing the two to supervise the ministry.
Sambo, who replaced Rotimi Amaechi, is a former Lagos Area Manager of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and worked as a civil engineer with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Recall that stakeholders had lamented fielding persons who do not know about the transport and maritime industry to head the ministry, which they claimed is responsible for the poor state of trade facilitation, thereby hindering the sector from generating the desired revenue for the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the economy.
The maritime sector is projected to generate N7 trillion in revenue yearly and create additional four million jobs in the next five years if properly harnessed, according to the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG).
The transport sector, perceived as the gateway to Nigeria’s economy in terms of capacity to boost trade and investment opportunities, was said to be worth $9.6 trillion as of 2018, according to research and consulting firm, Armstrong and Associates.
Stakeholders have expressed high expectations that there would be positive and drastic change in transport infrastructure to remove inefficiencies in the five transport modes — road, rail, water, air and pipeline as well as transform the nation’s seaports as key player in the maritime and transport sector.
The Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, who congratulated the ministers, said the appointments are a clear testimony and recognition of their competence, hard work, dedication and sterling track records of achievements in their previous national assignments.
He said the agency strongly believes that both ministers will bring their wealth of experience, wisdom and knowledge to bear in the discharge of their new assignments by improving the affairs of the Ministry.
The Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello-Koko, said the wealth of experience of Sambo and Adegoroye as well as their track record of excellent performance, will add fillip to ongoing efforts at improving efficiency and advancing the frontiers of trade facilitation.
The Chairman, Governing Board of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding Practice in Nigeria (CRFFN), Abubakar Tsanni, said the appointment of the ministers is apt, especially at this time when the Ministry needs a competent, experienced and patriotic leader who will continue to execute various developmental projects already started.
According to the CRFFN chairman, Sambo is a round peg in a round hole as he is not new to the industry, coming with a rich background in maritime administration as a former Area Manager of the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority.
Tsanni also described the new minister as an experienced, patriotic and hardworking administrator, who will bring more hope and progress to the ministry.
He pledged the council’s commitment to work hand in hand with the ministers for the success and development of the transport sector.
The National President of Africa Association of Professional Freight Forwarders and Logistics of Nigeria (APFFLON), Frank Ogunojemite, observed that Sambo has little or no time for festivities with numerous transport issues in need of timely intervention.
Ogunojemite encouraged Sambo 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,” he said.
The National President of the Seafarers Union, the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association (NMNOWTSSA), Bob Yousou said the minister’s experience in the maritime industry towers him above others as the best man for the job, adding that he will take the industry to a greater height, especially knowing and having worked in the terrain.
The Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, while congratulating both ministers, charged the Minister of State for Transportation to exploit the opportunities of his new office to help the state’s quest for the establishment of a deep seaport as the state is in dire need for a port declaration.
MEANWHILE, other stakeholders have expressed their dissatisfaction with the change in the ministry at this point, when the sectors under the ministry need urgent intervention for development.
The Acting President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Dr. Kayode Farinto, faulted the recent change in the leadership of the Ministry of Transportation, labelling such changes “trial by error” and stating that it breeds stagnancy and neocolonialism.
“The Federal Government needs to have a consistent policy in the maritime industry. This trial by error of the government must be stopped forthwith. Just when we thought there is eureka in the transportation ministry, the government decided to change the minister and bring in a new person that will start learning, commencing with visitations in the next three months. We are stagnant and not moving forward with these retrogressive steps every time we are encouraging neocolonialism,” he said.
A seaport terminal operator, who preferred anonymity, said barely two weeks after Gbemisola Saraki engaged the critical transport stakeholders in Lagos and deliberated keenly on several pertinent issues to address the sector’s challenges, the President brought changes in the sector.
The operator wondered if any result would stem from the week-long exercise.
“We have a situation where Gbemisola Saraki had been deputising for Rotimi Amaechi for three years and she has closely followed the developments in the sector.
“Will all those findings, recommendations and action plans go down the drain? Wouldn’t the new man (Sambo) require some months to acclimatise to the new role?” the operator wondered.