Stakeholders in the maritime sector of the economy have poured encomiums on the erstwhile President, Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN), Mr. Adeleye Ajayi over his emergence as the Chairman, Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ, Lagos State Council.
Ajayi had in the last election in NUJ trounced the incumbent, Dr. Qasim Akinreti in an election adjudged as one of the freest and credible in the history of the council after several postponements.
Speaking during a celebration and lecture organized by MARAN to honour Ajayi in Apapa, Lagos recently, the stakeholders praised him for the strides he has made over the years even as they enjoined him not to rest on his oars in the delivery of his present mandate as the Chairman, NUJ, Lagos State Council.
The former National President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu hailed Ajayi on his emergence as NUJ Lagos Chairman just as he described him as a “veteran journalist who is humble and diligent”.
Shittu who was the chairman of the occasion enjoined Ajayi and other journalists not to relent in the discharge of their statutory roles and responsibilities as members of the fourth estate of the realm.
He also used the occasion to flay the approach of the federal government to give revenue targets to agencies that should be service-driven thereby making them to lose sight of primary purpose for which they were established in the first place.
He argued that the drive to attain and surpass revenue targets has seen most agencies lose focus on the core services and values they ought to provide to the citizenry.
His words: “Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON) and National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) are good examples of agencies that should be service driven, but you cannot get anything from them without paying”.
The former National President of ANLCA expressed dismay that shipping companies in Europe and Asia have increased freight charges for cargoes destined to Nigeria as a result of scarcity of containers.
He blamed the federal government for the port inefficiencies that has made the country a dumping ground for empty containers.
Meanwhile, stakeholders especially the media have been encouraged to utilize the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act as a tool to spur development of the nation’s shipping sector.
Ajayi who stated this in his remarks at the occasion organized to honour him stressed that the FOI Act enacted few years ago was set up to promote, enhance and develop the nation’s democracy.
His words: “The Act was signed into law on 28th May, 2011 by President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration. The debate lasted for over 12 years but the law was passed to enable the public access government information in order to ensure transparency and accountability.”
He explained that the challenges to the Act demand consistency, perseverance and right attitude from advocacy groups, citizens, and public officials.
Continuing, he said: “If the consistency at which human rights advocacy are using the Act to demand for government information continues, and the sensitization at grassroots increases, the law will before long be able to achieve its aim to promote public transparency and accountability and deepen democracy in the country. Maritime stakeholders should note that the Freedom of Information law is a very powerful tool that should be implemented effectively for the growth of the industry”.
He expressed delight that the presence of five maritime media associations at the event has shown that the rapport between various groups has not been adversely affected, even as he proposed a uniform umbrella to regulate the sector’s media practitioners.
A veteran journalist, Mr. Emeka Okoroanyanwu in his lead paper presentation on “National Development: The Challenges and Prospects for the Proper Implementation of the Freedom of Information Act in Nigeria’s Maritime Industry”, urged operators in the maritime industry to make information available to the public without hesitation.
Okoroanyanwu argued that lack of transparency breeds and engenders corruption and the only way to eliminate corruption and other untoward tendencies in the maritime industry is for government agencies and parastatals to remain transparent while the media is allowed to perform its constitutional duties without any inhibition.
His words: “The provision of information is a key element in mobilizing a strong citizenship for development. Citizens need detailed and accurate data and information on the activities of the government to help them contribute meaningfully to the debate on appropriate strategies for socio-economic planning, growth and development. People cannot play their full part in society without access to information. They cannot exercise their rights and claim their entitlements without information, nor can they participate fully in the democratic processes”.
Okoroanyanwu who was one of those who are pioneers in covering the maritime industry and setting up MARAN over three decades ago averred that information is the life wire of the society.
According to him, without information flow, the human society will brood in the dark and be in jeopardy. A society without freedom of information is akin to a ship without a compass. That society will head to the rocks.
Those who attended the event and poured accolades on Ajayi include maritime journalists from various other associations, including past Presidents of MARAN such as Mr. Sesan Onilemo, Elder Asu Beks and Mr. Ray Ugochukwu.
Others were the President, Shippers Association, Lagos State, Rev. Jonathan Nicol, and the former General Manager, Public Affairs, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Captain Iheanacho Ebubeogu.