By Stephen Ubanna
With barely one month of his appointment as the minister of Marine and Blue Economy, carved out from the ministry of Transportation by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Commander-In-Chief of Nigerian Armed Forces, Gboyega Oyetola, who incidentally was a former governor of Osun state has hit the ground with a familiarization visit to the Lagos seaports on Monday, September 4, 2024.
The former Lagos state governor who had jetted out to New Delhi Capital of the Asian country of India for the G-20 meeting on the invitation of Narendra Modi, the country’s Prime Minister and expected to know hi fate as the Nigerian President on Wednesday 6, 2023, as the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal gives Judgement in the case between him and the Opposition Labour Party, LP, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and Allied Peoples Movement, APM.
Recall that the Nigerian President had charged Oyetola and the other 44 ministers newly sworn in August 21, 2023, to see their appointment as a ‘’privilege and a job to meet the expectations of Nigerians through their work in government.
Acting on the Presidential mandate may have informed why Oyetola, the immediate past governor of Osun who had lost his re-election bid to Senator Ademola Adeleke of the Opposition PDP, may not have been in a hurry to set the balling. He was said to have embarked on Consultations with the industry stakeholds which was laced with briefings from the ministry top officials including Magdalene Again, the Permanent Secretary, described in maritime circles as the engine house of the ministry and the agency Chief Executives, CEOs, under the ministry on their activities and ongoing projects in their respective agencies for necessary action.
Perhaps, based on the briefings received from Ajani, the ministry’s Administrative Head, Mohammed Bello Koko, Managing Director, NPA, Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, and George Moghalu , the CEO, of Nigerian Inland Waterways, NIWA, may have encouraged the minister to embark on his ministerial tour of the port facilities and other maritime infrastructural facilities outside the port environment to assist him in drawing out a roadmap to repositioning the nation’s seaports and taking it to world class level as well as maintaining the existing facilities on ground.
Accompanied by Ajani, Bello-Koko, the NPA, Managing Director, and other top officials of the Authority, the minister and his team were said to have visited the Lagos Ports of Apapa, Tin can Island and Port Terminal Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML, which was said to have taken them to the APM Terminal, ENL, Dangote, Greenville Development Nigerian Limited, ABTL, an NPA Dockyard, that had been taken over by NIMASA,and handed over to the technical partners, Melsmore, preparatory to relocating the Modular N0 billion Modular Floating dock from the Naval dockyard, Victorian Island, to the waterfront of the Dolphine Jetty, at NPA, Continental dockyard, for commencement of operation.
Giving his findings and what he saw on ground at the two major Lagos Seaports and the terminals may have informed why he had spoken out that the port facilities was almost collapsing and needed to be reconstructed before the damage is done.
The minister, who could not hide his feelings had said that the ministry will be engaging the APMT and the other terminal operators at the Lagos seaports and those operating at the south eastern ports of Onne, Rivers ports, Port Harcourt, Delta port, Warri and Calabar port in the Cross rive state for the rehabilitation of the $800million or N593 billion port facilities. He was emphatic that that the major rehabilitation at the ports has to be carried out, insisting that he is looking forward to a situation whereby the terminal operators would be willing to contribute towards the rehabilitation of the collapsing port facilities.
Oyetola was said to have told the terminal mangers that it will be in their own interest if the port facilities are reconstructed to accommodate bigger ocean vessels laden with cargoes as the companies are going to make more money I the business.
Many believe that the minister had said was not different from what Bello-Koko, the NPA, Managing Director had said sometimes ago that the Authority might be spending up to $800 million or N593 billion for the reconstruction of the country’s eight seaports located in Lagos, Rivers, Delta and Cross river states.
The situation at the Delta port, where the near total destruction of the Warri channel, due to the collapse of the Excravos breakwaters which was said to have prevented siltation from entering the channel leading to the Warri port.
Recall that that the Bello-Koko led NPA Management had concluded the channel’s survey and mapping and is at the state of securing the relevant ministerial approvals to fund the funds for the multi-million North American country of the United States, US, dollars, running into billions of naira, project before Eng. Muazu Jaji Sambo , the Taraba state born , then minister of Transportation joined other ministers to go with the dissolution of the Cabinet by former President Muhammadu Buhari to pave way for the incoming President Tinubu had had already stepped in to form his new government.
The problem of the Delta ports was said to have been compounded by low port activities caused by the low draft, has resulted to swings in transactions trade and unstable economic environment, thus adversely affecting the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, EDO/Delta operations, under the close watch of Compt. Babatunde Olomu.
Many are optimistic that given the minister’s interest in seeing to the rehabilitation of the country’s collapsing port facilit, including that of Delta port, Warri, he will not hesitate in giving approval for the release of the 800million requested by NPA Management for the project. Let us hope that it may take too long before the reconstruction work of the near collapse of the Lagos and south- eastern ports will commence. Enough of the ministerial ports visit.
We turn to NIMASA. Coming on the heels of the ministerial visit to the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin can Island, PTML, and other terminals in the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, the minister and his team, had visited the NIMASA, Resource Centre, Kirikiri and was shocked at what he saw put on ground by Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General and his Team.
Notwithstanding, Oyetola’s visit to the ports and other maritime infrastructural facilities outside the port environment, industry stakeholders believe that the erstwhile minister of Transportation’s shoes, is too big for the Osun state born minister of marine and blue economy ‘’to wear’’. They fear that ministry and running of the affairs of the agencies might slip back to the dark era of Rotimi Amaechi, a -one time minister of Transportation and also a former governor of Rivers state.