· Minister, Committee Chairman Keep Mum
High expectations of shipowners and industry stakeholders regarding the much-expected National Fleet for the Nigerian maritime industry may have been dashed following the silence of the Minister of Transportation; Muazu Sambo on the implementation, six months after the Fleet Implementation Committee submitted its report to him.
Recall that the minister had in September last year received the interim report on the need to establish a strong and sustainable national fleet by the Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee headed by the Executive Secretary of Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) Mr. Emmanuel Jime
Sambo, during the presentation of the committee report had expressed shock that Nigeria, an oil-producing state and sixth largest oil producer in the world, does not have a fleet, this is even as he promised to approach President Buhari and the Minister of State for Petroleum Resources on the prospects and implementation of the Nigerian fleet project.
Sambo had stated that, “How can we be an oil producer, I think we are the sixth largest oil producer in the world; yet, we have no boat carrier?”
However, six months after the report was submitted to him, stakeholders in the nation’s maritime industry have expressed concerns over the failure of the minister to implement the resolutions of the committee. This is even as his counterpart and the aviation minister; Hardi Sirika, has promised to deliver on the Nigeria National Carrier (The Nigerian Air) before May 29 of this year.
Sirika had stated that the national carrier, Nigeria Air, will commence operations before the swearing-in of a new administration on 29 May.
The minister of aviation disclosed this during the National Aviation Stakeholders Forum 2023 in Abuja recently.
“Operation of local and international flights will commence soon. Before the end of this administration, before May 29, we will fly,” Mr Sirika assured.
However, findings by Shipping Position Daily revealed that the planned commencement of the Nigeria Air is disturbing shipowners and key stakeholders who are currently not pleased with the way the Minister of Transportation has handled the shipping national fleet.
The stakeholders lamented that they are yet to see why the minister deserved commendation, this is even as they lamented the huge loss being recorded in the maritime sector as a result of the non-existence of a national carrier.
Checks by our correspondent revealed that the non-existence of a national carrier, cost the country over $41 million daily; lost to other countries that would have been generated via tax revenues and jobs that would have been created.
The former Chairman of Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), and CEO of Starzs Shipping Company, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, had stated at a symposium organized in his honour when he turned 70 years that as a result of the non-existence of a national carrier, Nigeria loses over $41 million daily to other countries.
He recalled that the defunct national carrier; Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) coupled with private initiatives, had put the country on the global shipping map, but he lamented that, “unfortunately, due to a multiplicity of factors, this enviable national capacity we used to have does not exist today.
He said “Nigeria now depends on foreign-owned or foreign-registered vessels to carry our imports and exports, both wet and dry cargoes. And the economic loss to the country is tremendous.”
However, a member of the implementation committee of the National Shipping Fleet and President of Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN); Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung, said he could not ascertain whether any progress has been made regarding the fleet implementation since it was submitted in September last year.
Onyung hinted that the fleet implementation committee may have been disbanded following the submission of the report.
He said “We handed over the report to the minister in September, it looks like maybe the committee has even been disbanded. The Minister should be the one to give you better information or you meet the DG NIMASA. I cannot comment on a report that has been submitted to the minister”.
On his part, the Vice Chairman of the fleet implementation committee and member of the Nigerian Indigenous Shipowners Association (NISA); Mr. Aminu Umar declined to comment on the national fleet, he asked our correspondent to get in touch with the chairman of the implementation committee for clarification.
“I think the chairman of the committee will be a better person to talk to you on this. I cannot speak on behalf of the chairman” he said.
Calls and text messages sent to the Chairman of the committee, Mr. Emmanuel Jime were not responded to as at press time. Equally, the Minister of transportation didn’t respond to messages sent to him as regards updates on the national fleet.