Presidential aspirant of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, has promised to revive the troubled maritime sector if elected president of Nigeria in the forthcoming 2023 general elections.
Kwankwaso, who spoke at a Town Hall meeting with maritime stakeholders in Lagos, said the series of problems bedevilling Nigerian ports showed that “we rarely plan for the future”.
He said: “In one of my visits to Lagos sometime ago, I was in Apapa and was stunned at the spectacle of articulated trucks lining the ljora bridge. To me, it was an unacceptable eyesore in 21st-century Nigeria. I was even made to understand that I came when things had improved. This is highly unacceptable!
“It goes to show that we rarely plan for the future. A port system originally designed for a population of fewer than 50 million people in the 1950s with less than two million cargo throughput has remained almost the same for more than 200 million population in 2022. When a country’s population is increasing at geometric progression and port infrastructure remains static, the resultant effect is chaos. To me, that is the cause of the ljora bridge debacle and other issues.
“So many things have gone wrong with the industry, I can still remember the days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNL) with its beautiful ships flying Nigeria’s flag across the globe! Why did it die? Why do we not have a replacement for the giant of Africa? What has become of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)? Why has it not been disbursed to the beneficiaries? From my little knowledge of the sector, a lot of questions are begging for answers!
“It is also my desire to see that the Customs and other regulatory agencies must be made to perform efficiently and effectively. The observed high-level corruption in the system has to be tackled to improve productivity in the ports.
“Again, it is worthy here to make mention of effective border checks and control to stem the tide of smuggling and its related security implications. Indeed, the entry points of Nigeria shall attract the desired attention of my administration, if elected president,” he said.
He said the NNPP, as a party, has its blueprint for the economy for which maritime and transport logistics are incorporated.
He requested that the stakeholder’s forum form a nucleus group that will be responsible for designing a workable and actionable Maritime Sector Reform Template, which should include clearance of goods arriving at our ports within 72 hours as done in other countries, tackling privacy within your territorial waters and the entire Gulf of Guinea, and clearing of our ports of pollution because of discharge from ships.
“Our government will look into the position of constructing a rail line from both Apapa, and Tincan Island ports to a dry port area outside Lagos where arrived goods should be domiciled for clearance in order to stop heavy trucks from causing gridlock in Lagos.
“We should also look into the possibility of opening other ports such as Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar and others in order to decongest Lagos port. In addition, I can assure you that it will no longer be business as usual under our watch.”
A maritime expert, Otunba Kunle Folarin, urged Kwankwaso to adopt the maritime sector, which he described as an “orphan.”
He urged the presidential aspirant to develop Nigeria’s maritime sector and optimise the usage of the waterways when he emerges president in 2023.
“Water for electricity, water for irrigation for agriculture, water for people to drink. You are coming with a robust credential, credential of social justice, we are expecting you to bring that to bear in the maritime sector.
“We need a new economic agenda in the sector. We need attention for the litoral states. We want total port reforms. We want the cabotage regime to come into play, this is where Nigerians can afford to invest and participate. We want Greenfield development. We want you to review the landlord model at the seaports. We cannot have large coast, large population and continue to be a tenant, we want to be the landlord. We are ready to be with any candidate that will take us to the promised land,” he said.