…Says Customs Delaying Rail Connectivity to Apapa Port
…Mulls Channel Management Contract to Chinese Company
By DAPO OLAWUNI
Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Eng Muazu Jaji Sambo has described the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) the umbrella body of all maritime journalists in Nigeria, as one of the best group of friends he has had during his working life in the maritime sector.
The minister stated this on Friday when he attended the 34th Anniversary and Awards of MARAN held at Providence Hotel in Ikeja GRA, Lagos.
The anniversary was themed: ”16 Years of Port Concession: The Pains and the Gains.”
The minister also said that the reason why rail connectivity to the Apapa port is delayed is because of the Nigeria Customs Service who have failed to remove the radioactive building (scanner house) sitting on the path of the rail tracks.
Speaking, he said “The other day I went to visit my brother, the CG of customs, specifically to appeal to him to help in removing the scanner house located at Apapa, that room is an obstruction to the rail traffic moving into the port.
“The reason he told me was that, we were supposed to have made payments to decontaminate the place and after some time, they would come and remove the structure”
“I came back to the ministry and made enquires and I was told that the ministry has made that payment a long time ago.
So, my intention is to go back with evidence and show the CG that we have made the payment a long time ago, and there is no reason why that structure should still be standing. I do not understand why in this age and times, we should still be moving cargoes by road” he lamented
The minister also said there are two projects dear to his heart, right from when he was still Lagos Area Manager of National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA). According to him, first among the plan is the development of the Inland Waterways at Marina into a hub in West and Central Africa.
“I was working with NIWA, it used to pain me that the inland waterways transportation mode was never developed, and now I found myself on the driving seat. There are two projects there that are very dear to my heart as the Minister of Transportation.
“First is the Hub creation at Marina, such that when the ships come into the Harbour, they would do trans-shipment into barges or specialized vessels that can travel a maximum of 3-meter draft all the way through intercoastal routes to Warri, Onitsha.
“The other one is the channel management, there is a company with Chinese investors that are willing and have the capacity to manage that channel. I have told my people in the ministry that if I don’t have this two projects off the ground, some people are going to cry, I would make examples of some people if these projects don’t take off by next year” he said
If these projects come to fruition, he assured that petroleum product, cement, building materials among others, would no longer be transported by road and roads would last longer and fatalities would reduce.
Speaking on the Lekki Deep Seaport which has just been completed, Eng Muazu Jaji Sambo said he has instructed the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) cargoes must not be transported from the port by road but with barges.
“I have told them that I don’t want them moving cargoes to that port or from that port by road, there is no reason why we should have another Apapa at the Lekki Epe axis, I will not accept it. So, let us do barges, this would also generate lots of jobs for people who construct barges, it would also build capacity for our people” he said
In his paper presentation, Mr Hassan Bello, former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Councill (NSC), noted that there was the need for constant review and re-alignment of port concession agreement especially in the light of international trades in commerce.
According to Bello, the country cannot stop or even pause, as reforms must be continuous.
“The challenges are vast and varied but the prospects are enticing.
“The maritime industry must be comprehensively executed and strategically run as a fundamental economic factor with the target of contributing massively to the economic growth of the country,” he said.
Bello noted that the port reform in Nigeria was necessary but crammed without regard to other sectors.
“The reform is critical but not comprehensive and stands the risk of being de-railed, curtailed, distorted or even reversed. This is because the legal framework is not dynamic and wholesome,” he said.
Bello said that government must perform it’s part as a major driver of the reform.
“Government must build and enhance critical infrastructure in which the port reform is anchored.
“Those critical infrastructure must be deliberately sited to make for co-ordination and linkages, especially inland connectivity. Transport infrastructure cannot be located haphazardly or anyhow.
“Federal Government must provide conducive operating procedure, ease cost of doing business and fight corruption that threatens to a put brake on reforms.
“The regulatory institutions must be assigned specific roles.
“Concessioning is give and take, the involvement of stakeholders is necessary not only in drafting agreements but in monitoring the tenets of the agreement,” he said.
Also Dr Bolaji Akinola, representing the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria, said that the pains of the concession was the fact that people lost their jobs.
According to him, the pains should be ameliorated by the Federal Government, whatever that is due to them should be given to them.
“There are also gains in human angel as before the concession dockworkers were casual workers and they go home with N1,500 but this has changed.
“To reap the benefits of the concession, ancillary challenges such as clearing processes, infrastructure issues should be addressed,” Akinola said.
Earlier, Dr Ade Dosumu, former Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and Chairman of the occasion, applauded MARAN for their contributions in the maritime sector.
Dosumu, however, called for training of journalists so as to get the best out of them.
The event also witnessed award presentations to Princess Vicky Haastrup, as the Face of Port Concession in Nigeria, and Dr Taiwo Afolabi, Maritime Person of the Decade, among others.
The event was well-attended by maritime sector bigwigs including; the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, OFR; Managing Director, Lagos State Waterways Authority (LASWA), Mr. Oluwadamilola Emmanuel; President-General of Maritime Worker’s Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Prince Adewale Adeyanju; a former Executive Director, Finance and Administration at NPA, Mr. Olumide Oduntan; Spokesperson for the Seaports Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria and Chief Executive of Ships&Ports, Dr. Bolaji Akinola; among others.