Minister of State for Transportation, Sen. Gbemisola Saraki has said that Nigeria ratifying its membership in the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) is an opportunity to leverage its advantageous geographical position.
Saraki disclosed this on Thursday during the virtual AfCFTA Implentation Engagement Series on Seafarers.
The minister who was represented by Mr Ibrahim Abdulkadri, a director in the Federal Ministry of Transportation said that more was needed to be done even with the vast geographical position.
Saraki while presenting the keynote address titled: “Nigeria Transportation Hub for Africa Free Trade” added that to leverage on the geographical position, there should be smart planning and deligent prosecution.
According to her, the ministry has embarked on some initiatives which would contribute towards the objectives of making Nigeria the transportation hub in Africa.
“We have established vehicle transit areas under the public private partnership arrangement which will be in eleven areas across the nations such as Lokoja in Kebbi state, Onitsha in Anambra, Oboloafo in Enugu and others.
“Construction of rail lines, establishment of trade routes, having a transportation policy and regulatory framework and others, all in the bid to utilise the countries geographical position,” she said.
She noted that a lot of work had already been done by the work stream, adding that discussions would continue this week to further enrich the plans.
Saraki pointed out that her role as co-chairman on AfCFTA on transportation would be to mobilise all human and material resources and ensure that all stakeholders are actively involved in the process of the country becoming a transportation hub.
Also, Dr Bashir Jamoh, Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) said identifying the potential in the country was a major problem that needed to be tackled.
Jamoh, represented by Mr Olayemi Abass, Director, Labour in NIMASA added that seafarers should be prepared to take advantage of opportunities coming through the AfCFTA.
According to him, there will be challenges in seafaring due to the Cabotage Act, but he assured the industry seafaring sub-sector of initiatives capable of changing things for the better.
Otunba Kunle Folarin, Chairman, National Seafarers Welfare Board, said that to maximise the potential of the maritime domain, there was need to develop infrastructure, seafarers manpower, transit corridors to support the size of international market.
Folarin listed others as: looking into the supply chain, expand the sea frontier and the interconnectivity of the modes of transport.
Earlier, Francis Anatogu, Secretary AfCFTA National Action Committee noted that seafarers were vital to Nigeria becoming a transportation hub, and as such deliberate policy should be adopted for proper integration.