Former Kano State Governor and presidential flag bearer of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso has reiterated his resolve to address the numerous ills plaguing the maritime sector of the economy if he is elected president in the 2023 general elections.
Maritime Bits had reported that the maritime industry had been plagued by several challenges. These include the poor port access roads which have hindered the smooth clearance of cargoes, prolong delay in the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), multiplicity of government agencies in the ports, appointment of politicians rather than core maritime professionals as helmsmen of maritime agencies, as well as unhealthy rivalry among the parasatals in the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
The presidential candidate, who made the vow at a town hall meeting with stakeholders in the maritime industry, expressed dismay that so many things have gone wrong in the sector over the years.
The town hall meeting which took place recently at Sheraton Hotel, Ikeja Lagos was organized by Prime Maritime Project (PMP) which has three veteran maritime journalists, Elder Asu Beks, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke and Mr. Ray Ugochukwu as the chief promoters.
Kwankwaso who has executive and legislative experience said he will use his wealth of experience and exposure in the various positions he had occupied over the years to ensure that the ills plaguing the industry are addressed headlong if he snatch victory at the 2023 presidential poll.
It is on record that apart from being a former governor of Kano State, the NNPP presidential flag bearer was at various times, a member of the lower and upper chamber of the National Assembly. Besides being a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, he was hitherto the Minister of Defense.
Apparently appalled by the poor state of affairs in the maritime industry, he said: “I can still remember the days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) with its beautiful ships flying Nigeria’s flag across the globe. Why did it die? What has become of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)? Why has it not been disbursed to beneficiaries? From my little knowledge of the sector, a lot of questions are begging for answers.”
Continuing, the former governor said: “It is also my desire to see that the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) 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 the productivity at the ports”.
Apparently not happy that successive administrations have been appointing non-professionals to hold key leadership positions in the maritime industry, Kwankwaso promised to appoint only maritime professionals to head positions in the maritime industry if he is given the mantle of leadership by the electorate next year.
According to him, the existing port infrastructure were originally designed for a population of less than 50 million people in the 1950s with less than 2 million cargo throughput but the same facilities now cater for over 200 million people in 2022.
The Chairman of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin in his remarks as the chairman of the occasion expressed dismay that previous leaders had made so much promise to redress the ills in the maritime sector of the economy but they did not keep to their word.
In order to give the issues at stake the desired attention, Folarin who remains one of the respected voices in the maritime industry called, for the establishment of what he called Ministry of Maritime Affairs.
“We need a new maritime agenda and more attention from the Presidency on this sector which has potentials to exceed the conservative N7 trillion projection when you take cognisance of using water for dams, irrigation, drinkable water, among others”, he said.
Folarin also called for a total port reform which will encourage more indigenous participation, better Greenfield development projects, free trade zones that allow for economic growth and a review of the current landlord model of port operations.
The founder of NNPP, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam in his remarks at the occasion that attracted participants from the maritime industry and beyond, charged maritime sector operators to have confidence in the Kwankwaso’s candidacy.
Aniebonam who is also the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) promised to compel Kwankwaso to prioritize maritime issues if he is elected at the polls next year.
According to him, now is the perfect time to change Nigeria’s governance approach because there is a total system collapse in the nation. The frustrations and hardship is too much. It is time to change to a new order. Kwankwaso is a presidential candidate who does not have any baggage and what is not available in other parties is a chairman who is from maritime. I will compel Kwankwaso to listen and expedite action on maritime issues.
Beks in his remarks revealed that the maritime sector had 15 million votes to deliver to anyone who presents a convincing maritime agenda.
His words: “Today’s event is the first in a series of town hall meetings being arranged by our team, PMP, to invite the presidential candidates of the 18 political parties to undertake a social contract with critical maritime stakeholders. We must, however, congratulate the NNPP for leading the way in this novel move by the PMP”.