Amidst speculations in some quarters that one of the nominees sent to the National Assembly for screening and confirmation as a member of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) by President Mohammadu Buhari would be asked to step into the shoes of the erstwhile Minister of Transportation, Right Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, stakeholders in the maritime industry have enjoined Buhari to confirm the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki as the substantive Minister of Transportation.
The stakeholders who spoke at the various interactive sessions Saraki had with them in the course of her weeklong tour of the nation’s seaports and maritime institutions in Nigeria’s commercial nerve centre all drummed support for her stepped into Amaech’s shoes rather than any of the new nominees.
In course of the weeklong tour including the Nigerian Railways Corporation (NRC) station at Ebute Meta, Apapa port, Tin Can Island Port and NIMASA Deep Blue projects, Saraki also interfaced with the chief executives of shipping lines, terminal operators, indigenous ship owners, importers, freight forwarders, maritime lawyers, truck operators, maritime workers union, and journalists covering the maritime sector of the economy.
The stakeholders include the founding President, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo: President, Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung; President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Captain Tajudeen Alao; and the Acting President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto.
Others are the President, Women in Maritime Africa, Rollens Macfoy; President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole; President, Shipowners Forum, Mrs. Margaret Onyema-Orakwusi; former Director-General, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, Mrs. Ify Anazonwu-Akerele as well as a representative of the Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN), Hajia Bola Muse.
Maritime Bits had reported that following Amaechi’s resignation to contest the presidential primary election of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Saraki took over the reins of administration in the Federal Ministry of Transportation on May 16, 2022.
Giving reasons why Saraki should be made the substantive Minister of Transportation rather than anyone else, Jolapamo in his remarks at the interactive session with ship owners last Thursday stated that she has what he called “deep knowledge of the industry”.
The revered indigenous ship owner maintained that Saraki “knows what to do” to reposition the transport sector of the economy.
Continuing, Jolapamo said: “She is not a green horn. She knows what to do. If indeed government wants to develop the maritime industry, government knows and understands that she has the wherewithal and the experience. Having come from the lawmaking side of the maritime industry to the executive side, she can do it better unlike what we experienced in the past”.
On his part, Onyung stated that Saraki’s visit to the ports and interaction with stakeholders “is a paradigm shift” that will accelerate development of the transport sector of the economy.
His words: “This is something which almost everybody has been looking for. The maritime industry is a very vast industry. The ocean economy is much, so also the challenges associated with it. For you to be able to come to a Ministry like this, you must have a very broad overview to be able to attend to the issue. I think she has all what it takes.”
Also drumming support for Sarski, Alao stated that the erstwhile member of the upper chamber of the National Assembly “has done wonderfully well” since she took the reins of power at Dipharima House, the corporate headquarters of the Federal Ministry of Transportation in Abuja.
His words: “To be sincere with you, the Minister has done wonderfully well because going on the water, coming by rail to Apapa, physically seeing the situation on ground, speaks volume more than anything anybody can explain. This woman has been very thorough and detailed in addressing all the issues. She knows her onions and she is on the top of the situation. She understands everything discussed in the meeting.
Taking one week off her schedule to come and meet the stakeholders; this is what we have been advocating for long. It is our wish that she is made the substantive Minister of Transportation. As you can see, there is no protocol, no funfair. She is meeting us and solutions are being proffered in this hall. What else do we want? People are even sending texts to her phone directly and she has been responding.”
On his part, Farinto said the minister has shown clear understanding of the myriads of problems militating against the development of the transport sector and competence to solve the problems.
While enjoining Buhari to give Saraki the opportunity to pilot the affairs of the Federal Ministry of Transportation till the end of his tenure, Farinto who is also a member of the Governing Board of the Council for the Regulations of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN) argued that allowing her to step into the shoes of Amaechi is the right thing to do,
Macfoy in her remarks said: “For us to achieve continuity, having her as the substantive Minister of Transportation is inevitable. Looking at what she has been able to do in the shortest time she assumed office shows she is ready for the job. I give my kudos to her.”
Also speaking, Anazonwu-Akerele and Muse also drummed support for Saraki to be made the substantive Minister of Transportation.
According to them, Saraki’s deep knowledge and visible commitment to the development of the transport sector are key to getting the desired changes Nigerians have been yearning for over the years. There is no doubt that making her the substantive minister is the way to go as she did not need to waste time in studying handover notes and learning on the job.