Prior to his appointment as Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi had been Speaker of Rivers State House of Assembly. It was from there that he became the Governor for eight years.
Not many expected that he would be made Minister in charge of Transportation, but when President Muhammadu Buhari made the announcement, stakeholders in the Nigerian transport sector, especially the maritime industry were apprehensive.
Yes, the Ministry that Mr Amaechi superintended is big. The Federal Ministry of Transportation as presently constituted has at least 13 departments and agencies under it. Agencies under the new Federal Ministry of Transportation headed by Rotimi Amaechi are: Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology, Nigerian Railway Corporation, National Inland Waterways Authority, Maritime Academy of Nigeria.
Others are: NIMASA, NPA, Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria.
In the aviation subsector, the ministry of Transportation controls the Federal Airports Authority (FAAN), commercial aviation regulator, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology. They were, however managed by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator Hadi Sirika.
No doubt, Amaechi inherited a mirage of problems, especially in the maritime sector. There are challenges at each of the agencies, there is hardly any segment of the nation’s maritime sector that does not have of one issue or another.
While we may not be able to go into specifics or agency-by-agency analysis of these challenges, the fact is that the former minister focused more on the railway sub-sector than the maritime sector.
Amaechi is however not without some achievements. With the strategy to link major cities in the country with rail line, the Ministry of Transportation completed the Lagos-Abeokuta Section of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.
Under Amaechi’s watch, the Ministry of Transportation ensured the completion and flag off for commercial operations of the Abuja – Kaduna standard gauge railway . He also saw commencement of the construction work on the Lagos – Ibadan railway standard gauge rail line with extension to the Lagos Port Complex at Apapa, Lagos. There was also the completion of the Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri railway standard gauge project, which was commenced over 30 years ago.
There is also the laying of foundation for East-West rail line
Ameachi will also be remembered for repositioning of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron in Akwa Ibom state.
Under, Amaechi, the transportation ministry concluded and commissioned the first Inland Dry Port in Nigeria, sited in Kaduna State.
Amaechi however left the Ministry of Transportation with failures in key sectors of the maritime industry. The performance of the erstwhile minister is abysmal.
For instance, shipping development underwent inestimable loss as indigenous capacity was almost wiped out. Over 90 per cent loss of capacity was recorded by indigenous ship owners, thereby causing high mortality rate.
There is no doubt that under Amaechi’s watch, insecurity within the Nigeria’s maritime domain worsened. All forms of insecurity, such as piracy, sea robbery, kidnapping for ransom, oil theft, illegal trafficking, among others within the nation’s maritime territory soared. The global report of the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) attests to this.
The consequences of this is that, shipping charges were increased as foreign ship owners feared coming to Nigerian waters. Those, who gathered the courage to come, hiked series of surcharges on Nigerian shippers while insurance premium also soared.
For almost four years, the former minister failed to expend the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), an interventionist fund meant to develop indigenous capacity in shipping.
Also, on assumption of duty, the former governor promised to deliver the National Shipping line. He failed to keep to his promise. With this, however, Nigeria lost and had since continued to lose numerous economic and human development opportunities.
Amaechi failed in his plan to float a national carrier. According to him, the project was suspended because cabinet members were divided on the modalities for its establishment.
Due to lack of concentration, foresight, and negligence, infrastructural decay, high cost of doing business at the ports and government policy inconsistencies, Nigerian ports, under Amaechi, lost initiatives to the neighbouring countries like Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
But at a recent stakeholders dinner in his honour, the immediate past Minister of Transportation, asked for forgiveness and understanding. He admitted that, he didn’t do as much in the maritime sector as he did in railways.
In his admittance of failure, he said: “One more thing I have to say is to apologise to the stakeholders and assure them of better maritime security. Our plan to float a national carrier is also a total failure on my side…..”
Now that the President has nominated him as a minister for a second time, we hope he gets reposted to the Ministry of Transportation. If this happens, he can right the many wrongs and recompense for the many failures he recorded.