Transportation:  Challenges Before Eng. Sambo As He Seeks Stakeholders Support To  Do His Best

By Stephen Ubanna

Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state, may have resigned his ministerial position last May, to pursue his Presidential ambition on the ticket of the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, leaving behind so many completed projects  and problems in the nation’s maritime and transport sector.

One of such uncompleted projects was  the Asian country of China supported multi- billion dollar standard gauge  railway Lines  across the country and  the construction  of the   $1.95 billion  Kano  – Mahradi  in Niger Republic , standard gauge rail line  for which a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, was said to have been signed by the two countries .

 Another major unresolved problem in the industry which the former minister may have left hanging  for Muazu Jaji Sambo, an Engineer, and   his successor, and  Ademola Adewole-Adegoroye the minister of state, to handle  was the unfulfilled promises of ensuring ’’the disbursement of the Cabotage  Vessels Financing Fund,  CVFF, to the Indigenous shipping Companies to procure  ocean going vessels to compete with the Foreign shipping Companies which had dominated the nation’s shipping sector over the years’’

Adegorye: Minister Of State, FMT

Senator Gbemisola Saraki, a former minister of State, ministry of  Transportation , now redeployed to ministry of Mines and Steel Development , in the recent ministerial shuffles by President Muhammmadu Buhari,  had said   last June that the dollar Account of the CVFF, had grown to $350 million , equivalent of N210 billion. The minister , may have failed to give the naira account of the Fund, which Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA ,had said in July 2021, was N132 billion.

Note that the former Rivers state governor may have been too preoccupied with the Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC  matters,  that he may have given little or  no time ‘’ to ensure  that the National Assembly  give approvals  for the disbursement of the CVFF’’.

Many expect Sambo, the incumbent minister of Transportation to take up from where Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General,, who is currently holding talks with the Godwin Emefiele led Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, to make funds available for the indigenous shipping companies who are eligible to access the Funds had stopped to make the disbursement of the multi-million dollar Funds a reality.

The CVFF,  was set up  by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003,  in line  with the Coastal  And shipping  Act. Atahe Fund was  derived from the two percent  levy  of every contract awarded under the Cabotage regime. Senator Saraki, the former minister of state, in the ministry of Transportation had described the’’ non-disbursement of the multi-million dollar CVFF, as a shame of nation’’.

Senator Saraki: Former Minister Of State, FMT, Redeployed To Mines And Steel Development

 She has her reason. Sambo,  a one-time Civil Engineer,  with the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA,  and  Lagos Area Manager of Nigerian Inlands Waterways Authority, NIWA, who had described his appointment as minister of Transportation as ‘’home coming with an open mind’’,  had sought the support of the ministry and other officials of NIMASA, NPA, NIWA and Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC,  to do his best  in the ministry between now and May 29, 2023,  when the Buhari Administration will elapse that will stand the test of time.

‘’ have come with an open mind  to do my best and leave  humanity  and posterity  to judge ‘’, he had said. He may have taken advantage of the change of baton in the ministry, on Wednesday, July 13, 2022, at Abuja, Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, 2022, to speak out.

An elated Senator  Saraki, the Kwara state born politician,  may have gladdened  the heart of  Sambo, the Kaduna state  born minister of Transportation and Adegiroye, the minister of state, when she  told them during the brief handover ceremony,  that ‘’they have exceptionally  hard working Team of dedicated and committed staff  in the ministry and the agencies’’ .

 She had made the two ministers in the Federal ministry of Transportation to understand  that ‘’transportation  remains  one of the focal point  of the Katsina state born Nigerian President over the last seven years’’, stressing that  ‘’the ministry goes  beyond  rail as it has both  maritime  and road transportation  departments’’.

 While Amaechi , the senior minister was in-charge of Nigerian Railway Corporation, NRC, Senator araki, the minister of state in the ministry of Transportation was given the responsibility of overseeing NIMASA, coordinating Deep Blue Project in which the government had procured $195 million maritime security assets through an Israeli security firm, HLSI Systems and Technologies  Limited, which had won the contract in 2017 to contain the activities of pirates and sea thieves in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

 The security assets that were said to have been delivered by  the Israeli firm to NIMASA, to prosecute the anti-piracy war  included  17 Interception Boats for coastal patrol,, 16 Armoured vehicles, two special mission vessels, two special mission aircrafts for surveillance of Nigerian Exclusive Economic Zone , EEZ, and four unmanned aerial vehicles.

Perhaps, the biggest challenge that Eng. Sambo, the minister of Transportation and Adegoroye, the minister of state  may  face in the next 10 months in the ministry of Transportation will be to curb the incessant boat mishaps in Lagos, Sokoto and other parts of riverine communities in Nigeria.  

The latest Boat mishap in Lagos, in which 10 passengers out of the 17 were said to have been drowned speaks volume.  It is not enough  to close down  the uncontainerised jetty,  which Sarat Braimoh,  the Lagos NIWA , Area Manager,  had said had been closed down since June 2022,  because ‘’it was not certified for container operations. The Jetty was said to have been closed down at the instance of NPA, NIMASA and NIWA , authorities  and policemen stationed  in the area.

The ministers of Transportation,  should work closely  with NIWA, NIMASA, and  Boat operators  Association  and other  stakeholders may have to stamp their foot down to ensure that ‘ operators keep to Safety rules and regulations, such as night travelling, no overloading’’ and put it as condition for all operators  to provide life jackets for passengers.

Investigations of past and recent boat mishaps by NIWA, has identified ‘’human errors and negligence as causes  of Boat mishaps, particular, Lagos waters. Alani Gausu, the Oba of Ibeshe who is alarmed by the repeated Boat mishaps in Lagos waterways  had reportedly said  that  most of ‘’the Boat Captain  do not have ‘’normal training  and orientation  in  handling boats  neither are rules  on standards  for Boat operations’’.

The Oba noted   that some  of the Boat Captains  are underage  and are addicted to drugs  as well as  use inferior Boats  with big engines’’ , leading to accident on the Lagos water ways. The situation may not be different from what is happening in other river communities in others of the country.     

Indeed, the euphoria  that had  greeted the two ministers of Transportation on assumption of duties  on Wednesday, July 222,, July 7, 2021,  may have sent a signal to the duo of what is expected of them in the next ten months in the nation’s maritime and Transport sectors   and industry stakeholders.

There is no gain saying the fact that the Katsina state born Nigerian President may have picked the NIWA Lagos General Manager to replace Amaechi, the former Rivers state who resigned to pursue his Presidential from NIWA, because of the performance of Boss Mustapha, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, who was the Managing Director of NIWA, until he was appointed the Secretary to the Federal Government of Nigeria which put him in a position where all the ministers report to him, including Amechi, his former boss.

Magdalen  Ajani,  the ministry Permanent Secretary,  in her welcome address,  was said to have promised the  duo  of a ‘’smooth working  relationship for the development of the nation’s  Transport sector’’. Hassan Umar, Director, Finance and Accounts, who spoke on behalf of the staff was said’’ to have informed   the ministers  that they no cause to worry  because ‘’the staff   on ground  in the ministry are professionals, worthy of their calling as civil servants as they apply  extant  rules  and regulations in the discharge of their duties’’.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *