Honourable Lanre Agoro is a very simple man; he represents what he proudly calls Oyo Atiba Federal constituency, in Oyo state. He has been a member of the House of Representatives committee on marine transport for a while. He has gotten to love Shipping Position Weekly, so much that when a slight opportunity came up recently during the committee’s visit to Port Harcourt, He didn’t hesitate to squeeze out a few minutes for this chat. The brief encounter throws light on some contentious issues.
What is the purpose of your visit to Port Harcourt?
As members of the House of Representatives committee on merine transport, we are here on an inspection of private jetties; to visit some of these jetties and investigate whether or not they conform with what is operational and in line with required rules of maritime transport. The issue of
private jetties have become quite contentious in recent past.
How will you describe your findings in Port Harcourt?
It is quite revealing. I will not say more than that, because it’s a committee thing. Until it gets to the committee and it is discussed, I can not say more than this on the findings. Our position will be made known to the public very soon.
I won’t go further than that. I have told you what we have seen so far because we visited some of these jetties, we couldn’t visit all, but the ones we visited are representative of the others that we were unable to visit, and like I told you, what we have seen so far is quite revealing.
Anything other than that will amount to preempting the position of the committee and I am not ready to do that.
Not to the best of my knowledge, because as a committee we have not sat down to discuss any protest letter from any state government, community or individual. But at any rate, if such protest exists, you should expect it, because it will affect some interests. The house passed a budget that appropriated money for the dredging of lower Niger in 2008. Be that as it may, the National Assembly was convinced that there was need to dredge because of the issue of inter modal transport system. Dredging River Niger is an important aspect of it. The issue of carrying cargo container either from Lagos or Port Harcourt to the hinterland should be looked into, we are talking of intermodal transport system. What we are saying is that there must be a linkage between the sea, the inland water system, the road and even the rail. That is the essence of intermodal transport system. So, if we are talking of dredging of lower River Niger, it is an important aspect of intermodal transport system. It should be done and we have appropriated money for that purpose.
It has not come to the notice of National Assembly. It is still within public domain. If it has not come to us, I won’t be able to say a word on that. We will wait until it comes and reverse the appropriation. That is when we will know that what you have just said is correct, let us see how it is going to be. Whatever is brought to the floor of the house, that is what we know and that is what we deliberate on.
What is your view on inland waterway transportation in Nigeria.
All aspects of our national life need improvement, inland waterways system inclusive. It is the determination of this committee to improve on the Nigeria inland waterway system and we are going to do that.
Of course, the senate of National Assembly has decided to repeal the extant law that is, the National Inland Waterway Authority Act to pave the way for another law. The House of Representative will also do same and see how we can repel the Act or amend it to enhance the operations of National Inland Waterways Authourity.
It is left for NIMASA. When the Cabotage Act was passed, it envisaged so many things. In the implementation of the Act, you find out that some aspects of the law were not touched at all. You know that a ministerial committee has been set up to look into those areas where there is need for improvement; we will wait for the committee’s report. The committee will have our support if its findings and recommendations will take the maritime sector to the next level. Let us wait to see the areas that need amendment, and when they come for amendment, it will be expeditiously done.
Stake holders complain that implementation of the provision of the Act is very slow
The committee should see to that; the stakeholders should also make their inputs into the work of the committee. We are at that stage now. The questions should be: why has it worked, why has it not worked, why has it been slow in its implementation. That is the stage they are in; they are consulting with the stakeholders. The stakeholders will have to exercise patience.
The law which established the Maritime Academy did not put it at Oron. It says Maritime Academy of Nigeria, and that is all, but it suited the government of the day to put it at Oron. When you look at section 4 of the Act, it says it will operate many campuses. It did not say one campus. Go and look at the Act very well. I wish I had the Act here, I would have shown you section 4 of the Act, it is so explicit about the multi campuses. So, if they want to establish many campuses, the Act allows it, so let them go a head and establish many campuses. It is in trying to implement the Act to the letter that they try to establish other campuses, either in Oron, Badagry or even in Lokoja.
Almost all the schools in Nigeria are complaining of not being adequately funded, but the fact is that Maritime Academy of Nigeria must have many campuses. We will review the Act with a view to increasing the present five per cent allocation which it enjoys. But, note that when other campuses are established, we must ensure that they are all well-funded. The reason why they should operate multi-campus apart from the Act saying so is because MAN, Oron alone can not cater for the number of students who are seeking admission every year. More over, Nigeria does not have enough maritime personnel to adequately meet our needs. So, we need more maritime academies.