By DAPO OLAWUNI
The Presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has revealed that the party has its blueprint for the economy for which maritime and transport logistics are incorporated.
Kwankwaso stated this while unveiling his maritime agenda in Lagos on Tuesday.
The NNPP Presidential flag bearer who was special guest at the town hall meeting organized by Prime Maritime Project also assured that if elected into office in 2023, his government would render the desired assistance to all importers of goods, manufacturers including exporters and other ancillary stakeholders associated with port operations and management.
He condemned the level of decay in port infrastructures over the years, saying that the Apapa and Tin Can Island Ports are now old and congested and are begging for replacements.
“I can tell you that I am aware of most of the challenges facing the sector presently. One of such, for instance is congestion on port access roads in Apapa. It may interest you to know that in one of my visits to Lagos sometimes ago, I was in Apapa and was stunned at the spectacle of articulated trucks lining the Ijora Bridge.
“To me, it was an unacceptable eyesore in a twenty-first century Nigeria. I was even made to understand that I came when things had improved. This is highly unacceptable!
“It goes to show that we rarely plan for the future. A port system originally designed for a population of less than 50 million people in the 1950s with less than 2.0 million cargo throughput has remained almost the same for more than 200 million population in 2022.
“When a country’s population is increasing at geometric progression and port infrastructure remains static, the resultant effect is chaos. To me, that is the cause of the Ijora Bridge debacle and other issues.
“So many things have gone wrong with the industry. I can still remember the days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) with its beautiful ships flying Nigeria’s flag across the globe! Why did it die? Why do we not have a replacement as the giant of Africa? What has become of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)? Why has it not been disbursed to beneficiaries? From my little knowledge of the sector, a lot of questions are begging for answers!
“It is also my desire to see that the Customs and other regulatory agencies must be made to perform efficiently and effectively. The observed high level corruption in the system has to be tackled to improve the productivity in the ports.
“Again, it is worthy here to make mention of effective border checks and control to stem the tide of smuggling and its related security implications. Indeed, the entry points of Nigeria shall attract the desired attention of my administration if elected the President” he stated
Also speaking at the town hall meeting, Elder Asu Beks, Chief Operating Officer, Prime Maritime Project, noted that apart from being the gateway to the nation’s economy, the net worth of the Nigerian maritime sector is estimated at about N91trillion and can boast of no fewer than 15million eligible voters on election day.
He said that successive administrations have continued to undermine the vast potentials of the Maritime Industry and have failed to articulate an enduring Maritime Strategy that will enable operators harness its vast potentials.
“For instance, why can’t we have a separate Ministry of Maritime Affairs? What is holding back the proposed National Transport Commission Bil? Why are our ports not linked by rail including the Lekki deep Seaport that will be commissioned next month?
“Why do our ports suffer such a huge infrastructural deficit and we keep giving lip Service to talks about the ease of doing business when in actual fact Nigerian Ports remain the most expensive in the West and Central African sub region? What do we gain as a nation by recycling politicians to head key parastatals in a sector that is experience driven and highly proffessional ? I can go on and on with these sad tales of woe.
“Based on this premise, Industry stakeholders are seeking to drive home a process of advocacy that will elevate Nigeria’s Maritime Industry to a matter of ” National Priority “. Therefore, as Nigerians prepare to elect another President to steer the affairs of this nation, industry stakeholders are unanimous in their quest to extract a MARITIME AGENDA from the incoming Administration” he said