Dr. Chris Asoluka (Former Managing Director, OGFTZA)
National carrier is a good concept because it is a promoter of image, but it goes beyond that, the ownership structure, the business plan are very critical, if you talk of the aviation sector, the minister said that we are just making a token investment of five percent, while the others would bring in the other investments. If we have a shipping line, any transport economist would tell you that doing business across borders would require you to stay on it and respond to challenges and urgencies in a twenty four -seven and three sixty-five basis, no room for incompetence, no room for politics because your competitors are not sleeping, they are taking action, if a ship is detained and you use bureaucratic measure because it is a government ship, to go and clear a process that would require a timely release and intervention, the ship is already having problems, any ship that cannot keep schedule or deliver the consignment of the charterer at agreed terms will run short of reaching contract and with time, it would lose clientele.
Barr Obiangeli Obi (President, Chamber of Shipping)
I believe we have the fleet implementation committee, I always tell people that, in the aviation industry, there is data, the industry is more transparent and there is a better set up, but the shipping sector is shrouded in a lot of secrecy which we need to uncover. I know that the fleet implementation committee has gone far. We are comfortable with the pace it is going because something is being done, awareness is ongoing because we do not want what happened to NNSL to happen to the new carrier, so we are taking our time to ensure it is done properly. You can see what is happening to Cabotage, after so many years it is not being implemented because we didn't take time to come up with it, but with this new carrier, we are taking our time and I am very confident it would take off better.
Rev. Nichodemus Odollo (Trustee, Shippers Association, Lagos State)
Nothing is difficult to do in the maritime sector, but not having the right people who are qualified with incorruptible character to man our national carrier is the problem. Secondly, we need to have knowledgeable people who are verse in economics and politics. We need people with knowledge of cargo sourcing, people who will market our national carrier, to ensure that it will have a reasonable share of the cargo market. All these and other things must be considered and be in place before we establish another national carrier.
Damola Irinyemi (Lecturer, Redeemers University)
It is not a difficult thing to do, Nigeria as a nation has the financial and human capacity to set up another national carrier, but our problem is leadership selfishness, unwillingness to do and nothing else. It is not a difficult thing to do in Nigeria, as a nation and in the African continent; it’s the easiest thing to do because we have both human and financial capacity. The major challenge amongst several others is leadership selfishness, unwillingness to do, corruption, among others.
John Okpono (Vice Sec, Merchant Navy Association)
Who said it is difficult? It is not like it is difficult to have a national carrier, Nigeria at a time has a national carrier called Nigerian National Shipping Lines (NNSL) which is now defunct, all the vessels as at that time have been auctioned, the same thing with the Nigerian Airways, it was Nigerian Airways but now Nigerian Air, So, it can also happen in the maritime sector. But remember in this new arrangement of Nigerian Air, the government has 5%, so it is purely private sector driven. So, it is not difficult to also have this in maritime sector, but we need to understand our game before it will be floated. It is easier to have a vessel more than to have an airline, despite the fact that we don't have a national carrier; we have vessels that belong to indigenes. What we are clamoring for is a national carrier and we pray that one day; Nigeria will have a national carrier. We will continue to mount pressure on the government until something is done.
Captain Abel Ogah (Retired Naval Personnel)
Before we can have a national carrier, there must be a constitutionalized merchant navy; do we have a merchant navy that is already established? The one we have is just a workers’ association, is there any Act or Bill that duly established merchant navy? They are the people that will man the merchant vessels. The people must be members of merchant navy, which is why we call them merchant navy captains. There is no established merchant navy, until we have that, it will be difficult to have national carrier.
Captain Joseph Awodeha (Ex President, Master Mariner)
The only thing I can say is that airlines are mostly used in doing business at the civil society, so people know about airline more. People tend to focus more on the airline. We heard the other day that the government spent some amount of money to pay the former Nigerian Airways staff and nothing is said about NNSL even though they are facing the same situation. So why are they dealing with one and leaving the other? The marine world doesn't have the finance for the national carrier unlike their counterpart in the aviation. The minister of aviation said the individuals that want to invest in the Nigerian Air are there. The investors in the aviation are saying that the government should take 5% while the rest goes to them, but the minister of transport is saying that we don't have investors to take the national carrier in the maritime sector.