By the time he is done on May 29, 2023, Mr Mu’azu Jaji Sambo will likely be holding the tittle of the Minister of Transportation who has the shortest tenure. He would have served for just about nine months.
He also acknowledged this, when he resumed at his office and addressed staffers of the Ministry in Abuja. “I am here for a very short time”, he said.
No doubt, the Ministry of Transportation is big. Agencies under the Ministry include: Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology, Nigerian Railway Corporation, National Inland Waterways Authority, Maritime Academy of Nigeria, NIMASA, NPA, and Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria.
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.
Without dwelling so much on sectoral challenges, the new Minister had his cup full upon his appointment.
Issues that were on the table awaiting his action included: Implementation of the Cabotage Act, and the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, the National Seafarers Development Programme, the NIMASA Floating Dock, Review of the Concession Agreement with Terminal Operators, a host of other issues.
This newspaper had advised that, he did not need to reinvent any wheel. There is already a road map at the Ministry, there have been several engagements with stakeholders in the industry. So, there exists a road map to work with.
Of course, since his assumption, he has shown appreciable determination to make a difference as the Minister in charge of the nation’s transportation sector.
But, at the risk of being accused of patronizing him, we think that in actual fact the immediate past Minister; Mr Rotimi Amaechi had done enough to make things easy for his successor; Mu’azu Sambo.
Yes, Sambo made pronouncements about some critical issues in the maritime industry. For instance, he has given the quest for disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) the push it requires. He has also expressed commitment about the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill, which is currently waiting for the assent of President Muhammadu Buhari. Also, the Dala Inland Dry Port has been commissioned during his tenure. We recall that, he called most of the things listed above ‘low hanging fruits’!
However, in less than three months, a new government is expected to be formed; and the tenure of the current Minister may come to an end.
We are constrained to advise that the minister should take the remaining time to focus on achievable targets.
Already, he is running against time in the implementation of the CVFF. Apart from the Primary Lending Institutions that have been named, nothing concrete has been achieved, and this worries us just as it also worries many stakeholders.
It does appear as if NIMASA does not know how to go about the remaining part of the process. It also appears like there is a deadlock in the discussions with the banks, which are very critical to the realization of the disbursement of the CVFF.
Yes, we are aware that the affected banks have met with the DG of NIMASA, we are also aware that they have met with the Minister. Feelers from these meetings do not elicit excitement.
We are also skeptical about the worries and hurdles emanating from the lending institutions and the discordant tunes coming from the various ship owning interests.
For these fears, we advise the minister to pay more attention to the promise that he has given, which is that the CVFF will be disbursed before he leaves office.
As a maritime media organisation, we are also worried about the recent directive that the minister gave the Nigerian Shippers’ Council to carry out a performance audit on terminal operators before their license is renewed.
The directive which was given when the Minister visited the Council’s head office in Lagos, is already causing jitters among stakeholders.
Sambo had alleged that requests for concession agreement renewals from the NPA had been submitted without verifiable data on the performance of the terminals. He consequently declared that, as the ports’ Economic Regulator, the Shippers’ Council was best qualified to audit the performance of the terminal operators.
Coming after some terminal operators had already secured renewals of their concession agreements, the directive may pitch the Nigerian Shippers’ Council against the Nigerian Ports Authority.
It is instructive that the renewal also had the approval of the Infrastructure Concession Regulatory Commission (ICRC). From our findings, the ICRC approval was given based on the Business Case submitted to the Commission by the NPA and subsequent negotiations held between the Government team (NPA, ICRC, the “Transaction Adviser) and the affected Terminal Operators.
Our position on this matter has nothing to do with the right of Shippers Council as the Economic Regulator, rather it is based on the fact that, its officials had been invited to partake in the processes leading to the renewal of the concessions. More importantly, we believe that if taken- up, it will pitch otherwise friendly agencies against each other.
We do not think that the Shippers’ Council will also want to embark on any such adventure that will strain its rosy relationship with the Nigerian Ports Authority.
Rather than pitch the two sister agencies against each other, we think that the Minister should pull all the political strings to ensure that President Muhammadu Buhari signs the National Transport Commission Bill, before leaving office on May 29.
It has once been rejected by the Presidency for some infarctions, it has since been re-worked by the National Assembly, and now ready for President Muhammadu Buhari’s assent.
Perhaps, the NTC is what the Nigerian transportation sector needs to revolutionise, as the National Communication Commission has done to the telecoms industry.
Mu’azu Jaji Sambo will be remembered for good, if he is able to get the President to assent to the NTC, even if he is not able to ensure the disbursement of the CVFF.
Kindly like us on Facebook/twitter