By Stephen Ubanna
For years, officials of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigerian, CIoTAN, through Bashir Jamoh, the National President and now Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency , NIMASA, have been clamouring for the country to have a National Maritime Transport Policy. The Institute officials were said to have presented their demand to past and present All Progressive Congress government led by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General but no effort was made by those at the helms of Authority at the Federal ministry of Transportation to pursue the matter to its logical conclusion.
Jamoh and other officials of the CIoTAN, may have taken advantage of the establishment of the Maritime University at Okerenkoko, Warri South West , Local government Area of Delta state and Nigerian Transport University , Daura, Buhari home state , to keep the hope of developing the country’s maritime Transport policy alive.
The CIoTAN officials may have won the heart of Rotimi Amaechi a former governor of Rivers state and now the minister of Transportation and Gbemisola Saraki, a one-time Senator of Federal Republic of Nigeria and now minister of state, Transportation, overseeing the nation’s maritime sector. The duo, in turn were said to have won the heart of the President, who saw the reason with them for Nigerian to have a National transport policy.
The Nigerian government ratification of the African Continental Free Trade Area, AfCTA agreement, as the 34th member nation to do so on December 2020, which it had deposited at the African Union , AU, Secretariat, Addis Ababa, Capital of Ethiopia, may have informed why the Buhari Administration has taken serious the development of a National Transport Policy for the country. He was said to have thrown the challenge back to Amaechi and Saraki, the two ministers overseeing the of Transportation Ministry the go ahead and set up a Committee that would develop a National Maritime Transport Policy for the country which must be presented to the government for approval and subsequent implementation.
It is on record that AfCTA, which is formed by 54 out of the 55 member nations of the AU, is the largest free trade area since the World Trade Organisation, WTO, which Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a former minister of Finance and Coordinator of the economy under erstwhile President Goodluck Jonathan, is now pushing to become the President, was formed.
Described as a game-changer in African and World Trade, with a market of more than 1.2 billion people and about $3 trillion combined Gross Domestic Product, GDP, and the potential of growing intra-African trade by over 50% , according to a United Nations Economic Commission For Africa, the government sees the National Maritime Transport policy as going to ‘’boost the nation’s maritime sector and widen the horizon to enable it serve the domestic market and have Comparative advantage globally’’.
It is not surprising why she had said that that AfCTA will place Nigeria in place of Leadership if the country adequately prepare for the Protocol. This may have informed why she had said that ‘’it is expedient to make the maritime sector ready for the AfCTA transit Protocols and other international Protocols for the country to compete favourably in the regional and global markets’’.
As a prelude for the development of a workable National Maritime Transport Policy for the country that would benefit the Nigerian business Community from the $3 trillion GDP, market, that was scheduled to take –off on January 1, 2021 and which has its Secretariat in the West African country of Ghana, the government had appointed Paul Adalikwu, Director, Maritime Safety and Security, Federal ministry of Transportation, as the Chairman of the Committee to fashion out to fashion out a National Maritime Policy for the country.
Other members of the Committee include Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, Managing Director,, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Magdalene Ajani, Permanent Secretary, Federal ministry of Transportation, Lynda Ikpeazu, Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety , Education and Administration, George Moghalu, Managing Director, National Inland Water Ways Authority, NIWA, and Jamoh, the NIMASA , Director General, who has been represented in the Committee by Chudi Ofodile, the Agency Executive Director, Finance and Administration. Danjuma Goje, a former governor of Gombe state and Chairman , Senate Committee on Maritime Transport, who also represented in the Committee by Senator Ibrahim Yahaya.
Adalikwu , who had been saddled with the responsibility of developing a National Maritime Policy for the country had said that the nation’s maritime sector which is vital for the take –off of AfCTA, cannot be successfully administered without a policy document that contains genuine, reliable and updated data’’ on trade that can stand the test of time.
Adalikwu, had said that the National Maritime Transport Policy document is aimed at developing ‘’a maritime industry that is income generating , self- sufficient, Competitive with Comparative advantage in the regional and global markets’’.
Given the seriousness of the Buhari Administration to the development of the National Maritime Policy, the first Stakeholders Forum on the Draft Policy was held in Lagos recently. The meeting, according to Philip Kaynet, a Deputy Director, Corporate Communications, NIMASA, was initiated by the Federal ministry of Transportation ‘’to get stakeholders buy-in and outputs, as the policy document was being fine-tuned’’.
Saraki, the minister of state, Transportation, who could not hide her feelings that the policy is being developed during her tenure, had said that ‘’it would lead to improved Foreign Direct Investment, FID, inflow and enhance the ability of the Nigerian Maritime sector to Compete internationally’’.
She may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when she said the Transport policy would give Nigeria ‘’a pride of policy in AfCTA, agreement’’. An elated Saraki had said that ‘’it would usher in a regime of robust maritime transport system in the country in line with international best practices’’.
She opined that ‘’the adoption of the Transport policy would mark a paradigm shift in the country’s economic Competitiveness’’. She maintained , in her opening address at the stakeholder’s Forum, which was read by Mrs. Ajani, the ministry Permanent Secretary in the Transportation Ministry that the National Maritime Policy document ‘will guide and sharpen the activities of the industry stakeholders.
Describing it as an all-encompassing document , the minister disclosed that that ‘’it will skyrocket the nation’s maritime sector activities to compete favourably in the international market’’, noting that, that is why the document is extremely important and Crucial to the development of the sector’’.