BY INNOCENT OROK
Finally, the expected kick-off of President Mohammadu Buhari’s “Next Level” second term administration started yesterday with the swearing in of the 43 Ministers which constitutionally will formed the think- tank team called the Federal Executive Council to run the government for the next four years.
Though, since the announcement of the Ministers over a month ago and the subsequent screening by the Senate ,which many Nigerians saw it as a “Take a Bow and Go” affairs, most Nigerians have lost interest in the ministerial nominees as there was no difference from the old order.
President Buhari has promised an Executive team that will make up of technocrats. Later he change it to appointing people he know personally and then he was later quoted as crying out that he was under pressure in appointment of the new ministers.
Sadly, when it finally came after nearly two months of his second term in office, the Ministers were the same old people we know, with more than 50% of his immediate past cabinet members repeating in the new team.
At this point many Nigerians had given up on their expectations from the government as they are only old wines in new bottles.
Yesterday swearing -in of the 43 Ministers however cemented skeptics fears that most of the returnee ministers will be reassigned their old portfolios to continue where they stopped.
Truly, the skeptics were right, nothing has change, except the Ministers are now 43 in number, with some few ministries having Ministers of State and the creation of a new Ministry called Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development.
By and large the Buhari’s Next Level government has taken shape, with barely five months after winning election and almost three months after being sworn- in for second term of four years (2019-2023).
Politics is over for now, governance and performance will be the talk of the town at least for the next two years. What will the new and old Ministers do different in this Next Level?
Our searchlight is beam on one of the critical sector of the Nigeria economy, the Nigeria maritime sub sector which also happened to have a vocal, controversial politician and returnee Minister, Mr Rotimi Chuibike Amaechi to for see its affairs.
Fortunately, Amaechi make up the returnee Ministers and was also able to clinched his Transportation Ministry back as Minister.
Good for him too, he has gotten a Minister of State in person of Senator Gbemisola Saraki, a known name in the maritime industry having being Chairman Senate Committee on Marine Transport, few years back.
The return of Amaechi to the Transportation Ministry, though expected , has generated fresh expectations as well as skepticism. Of course many have wished he never came back as Minister not to talk of being reappointed to the same ministry, which many thought he performed below expectations.
Now that he is back, what will he do different in this second coming?.
A cursory look at Amaechi’s last four years of his first tenure as Minister of Transportation, one will say he was practically learning the robs, setting agendas, giving orders, but most of his words were not his bond.
He came with a mindset of changing the tide in the maritime industry, fortunately there was little he could achieved because he was later overwhelmed by the myriad of problems, agitations, confrontations and flaunting of orders, which the sector is characterized.
Amaechi soon discovered that much political proclamations and willing of political manoeuvering did not mostly work in a sensitive and professionalised sector, like the maritime sector. As such after holding meetings, conferences, setting of various committees and think- tank groups ,at the end, not much was achieved to change the status of the sector in the past four years.
WHAT SHIOULD AMAECHI DO IN HIS SECOND COMING?
Good enough, the Transportation Ministry has taken its old shape of having three Ministers, the Supervising Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, Minister for Aviation, Hadi Sirika and now Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki.
With this team, who are by now grounded in the workings of the sector, then Nigerians should expects a more workable maritime and transportation sub sector.
Amaechi as the supervising Minister should rejig the sector for more goal getting and delivering of the Next Level dividend with less political rhetorics.
The Ministry of Transportation is regarded as a Grade ‘A’ Ministry having money spinning agencies like the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Shippers’Council (NSC), Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN, Oron), Nigerian Institute of Transports Technology (NITT,Zaria) and Council for Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigerian (CRFFN).
But despite huge funds available in these parastatals , the maritime industry is still bleeding with myriads of problems with no directional route to solving them.
Amaechi in his first tenure has promised a forensic audit and repositioning of the maritime sector, nothing like that happened in the past four years.
He promised establishment of a National Shipping line, that again has not been actualised.
He promised the disbursement of the Cabtage Vessels Financing Fund (CVFF), that again is a failure.
The repositioning and restructuring of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron is still in doubt despite the huge funds pumped into it as only few remoulding of buildings, without new breath of curriculum content has been actualised.
Even the much talk about railways which Amaechi is making headlines, is only the Abuja- Kaduna route that is functional, others are still in doubt of actualisation.
At present, three parastatals under his ministry, NITT, CRFFN and NIWA are as good as being moribund with little or no achievements to their credit.
RE-JIGING THE PARASTATALS:
NPA: The Nigerian Ports Authority has a baggage of unfinished business which it has to perform if our ports must compete with other ports in the region.
Ports infrastructure are decaying, ports access roads are death traps, cost of doing business in Nigerian Ports have hit roof top. Though, one may say these are the long age regular problems, if we don’t find solutions to them, then, the consequences await us.
Recently, the House of
Representatives held a public hearing on the non utilization of the Eastern Ports,the NPA should drive the distribution of cargo and vessels allocation to ports with incentives like tax holidays and lesser levies to attract maximum uses of all designated ports in Nigeria.
As at today , it seems the NPA has jettisoned the 25 years Ports Development Master plan which included the construction of new deep seaports and green field facilities, that plan should be revamped .
It is also critical that, the NPA takes a holistic look at the concession agreements and when reviewing some of them, it should be on competent and not political consideration. This and many more things, Amaechi must do in this his second coming.
NIMASA: NIMASA has always been in the controversial book of non performance by maritime stakeholders. Many thought in the first tenure of Amaechi things will change, but it seems the status quo remains.
Today, NIMASA is seen as a more partying , jamboreeing and highly political motivated agency with so much rhetorics and media hype of promises without tangible practical feats to boast of.
The same age long issues, of non disbursement of CVFF, lack of sea time for Cadets, piracy and lack of proper funding of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, Nigerian Maritime University, among others.
Revamping of projects like the NIMASA shipyard, NIMASA Technical College, NIMASA Resource and Rescue Centre and building of capacity for stakeholders should play a major role in this Amaechi second term.
MAN, Oron: The Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron is 44 years old , fortunately it has been a weeping child over the years with underfunding, coupled with political exclusion in the scheme of things which has contributed to the dearth of qualified Nigerian Seafarers today.
The Amaechi regime carried out a Repositioning and Restructuring process in the institution in 2016/ 2017,what is the result today?.
Aside from the remolding of buildings and few side works , not much have been achieved by the Commodore Emmanuel Effedua regime when compared to the huge funds available to it.
The content and curriculum of the academy has not change, Cadets intake has been drastically reduced by over 50%, even with the much talk about upgrading of facilities.
The personnel and staff structure has remained non upgraded. For more than three years now the academy has no substantive Registrar, no Bursar, no Director of works, Librarian and other principal officers. Despite the fact that the academy has advertised for those vacancies in March 2018, close to two years down the line, the positions are still vacant.
Most importantly too, the academy has not move up in its over 40 years of existence with new departments ,apart from the conventional Marine Engineering, Nautical Science, Boat and Ship Building Technology and Maritime Transports. The Electrical/ Electronics Engineering added to it few years ago is still not yet accredited by NBTE. No new departments nor new lecturers have been engage despite Amaechi’s might of recruiting professional hands into the academy.
Many have described the repositioning and restructuring tactics perpetrated by Amaechi in his first tenure as a ploy to plant his candidate as rector there.
The efforts by the National Assembly to upgrade the academy to a Maritime University was stalled because the ministry under Amaechi was not interested in the academy becoming a University.
Most pathetic of the academy is that they always go cap in hand begging for funds, in fact a filler from the institution said now the academy is broke and is looking for funds. The welfare of staff and salary is poor, backlog of promotions in the last four years, more hurting too, the staff are still being owed 2018 December salary, while most allowances enjoyed before by the staff have been cancelled.
These and many other burning issues affecting the only Nigeria Maritime institution recognized by IMO, the Minister should addressed in this regime.
There are numerous problems facing the maritime sector NSC, NRC, NIWA, CRFFN, Nigerian Maritime University and even the Ministry of Transportation, sadly the Ministry did not give any scorecard to the stakeholders in the its last four years, neither did its agencies.
This was clear indication that the Ministry under Amaechi in his first tenure was not fair and sincere to maritime stakeholders nor Nigerians who expected a lot from him and the industry.
In his second coming, if the sector must move to the already hype Next level, political exclusion and regarding of opposing or constructive criticisms as enemy of the system must stopped. Arrogance and I know it all by agencies heads and Ministry officials must stopped.
Political praise singing should be replaced with genuine criticism and professional advice.
The system of we and them must give way to we, we.
The maritime media and
stakeholders are critical partners of the growth of the system, even if anyone refuses to carry them along , they will always carry themselves along come what may, as they are the gate keepers and barrack of the system.
The Minister in his tick skin of absorption of both political and work pressure should down play on political affront, but dwell on all inclusive growth for the sector. Amaechi should direct his parastatal heads to give their agency’s score cards quarterly or twice a year to the media and stakeholders to open up their performance ratings to public scrutiny and for corrections.
THE SENATOR GBEMISOLA SARAKI FACTOR:
With the coming of a grounded Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, the task of administering the Ministry has been made less easier for Rotimi Amaechi as he now have a trusted and able hand to work with.
Senator Gbemisola Saraki was one time Senate Committee Chairman on Marine transport and during her tenure the sector witnessed frontal decisions, one of them was to compelled the then DG, of NIMASA , Dr Ade Dosunmu to pay MAN, Oron its 5% capacity funding, when he further refused, he was unceremoniously sacked by the then Minister Isa Bio, who was also from Kwara State.
Gbemisola Saraki is not a push over in the industry, if going by the previous structures as a Minister of State, she will supervised, NIMASA, NPA, MAN, Oron, CRFFN and NITT.
If this happened, then we are in for a rubust and all engaging season of activities in the sector.
Suffice to say that the combination of Amaechi and Saraki is a partnership that can robustly work for the growth of the Nigerian Maritime sector.
If they both eschew power show, ego brandishing , divide and rule and between we and them syndrome.
Welcome onboard returnee Minister, Rt. Hon.Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi and new entrance Senetor Gbemisola Saraki.
Bon Voyage Ship Nigeria Transportation Ministry.