Comatose railway, bankrupt shippers, other hurdles ahead of transport minister – The Sun Nigeria

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Of Idu JudeAbuja

The Transport Minister Mu’azu Sambo already has his work cut out for him, although there are doubts what he can accomplish in around 11 months as the Buhari administration enters its twilight.

He steps into the saddle at a time when insurgents and the federal government are vying for control of Nigeria’s transportation.

So far, terrorists have successfully shut down the $876 million Abuja-Kaduna Railway, after killing scores of passengers and kidnapping others for ransom, in a recent mortifying attack. There is also the gradual but steady disappearance of local shipping companies as the lack of a financial lifeline continues to force them out of the seas. The survivors are literally on ventilators, leaving most of the multi-billion dollar maritime business to outsiders.

Again, thousands of naval cadets and engineers are thrown out of Nigerian maritime institutions every year without a ship to undergo their mandatory training at sea, among other burning issues.

Although he retired from National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), an agency under the Ministry of Transport, Sambo, experts say Sambo has a lot of work to do to continue the legacy of his predecessor, Mr Chibuike Amaechi, and as such, do not should not allow itself to be distracted by too much politics.

A former Director of Railways, Ministry of Transport, Baba Kobi Mohammed, advised Sambo to urgently secure the necessary political support to enable him to implement the pending transport policies, especially those on the railway.

According to the transport expert, “I think the minister, who is not new to the industry, having spent years as a manager in the industry, is certainly not oblivious to the many tactical and administrative challenges facing the industry.

“You see, when we talk about economic diversification and growth, we should be talking about strong and viral rail transport which will be essential to stimulate the economy. He should therefore ensure that the industry receives a boost before he leaves. I can tell you for free that the rail system ensures that business between producer and consumer runs without tears.”

Mohammed added that for a country to have a vibrant economy, controlling the price of goods in the market is the first priority.

“Without a good transportation system, to move goods across the country, consumers are subject to an uncontrollable price of goods in the market, but with the use of the railway as the cheapest way to transport goods from one place to another, the price of items takes a natural form. In other words, no country’s economy survives on elite means of transport, a means where small industries are not nurtured,” he added.

Economic analysts have also urged the Minister of Transport to ensure that the railway operates as a stand-alone business so that it delivers the right value to consumers and investors, rather than seeing it as a government product intended to provide free social services.

The Infrastructure Concessions Regulatory Commission (ICRC) believes that the decline in passenger and freight movements over decades in Nigeria is the result of delayed investment in locomotive and rolling stock.

Interestingly, there is currently a 25-year strategic roadmap for reviving the railway system in Nigeria, with relevant ideas to steer the ship of the reform agenda.

Industry watchers have tasked Sambo with seeing what he can implement in the plan as it aims to link the 36 states and Abuja by rail. It also aims to provide rail links to the country’s airports and river port terminals, thereby reducing pressure on the Nigerian road network, which currently handles over 80% of passenger and freight traffic.

Another hurdle before Sambo is attracting the right investors in the rail and maritime sector in general.

The call for new offshore investment reached a crescendo recently, when China reportedly developed a cold foot in extending new loans to Nigeria, amid fears of a possible default.

Another area where experts want the Minister of Transport to shine his spotlight urgently is the Coasting Trade Vessel Funding Fund (CVFF), a 2% contribution from indigenous shipowners involved in the coastal and inland shipping trade in the maritime domain of Nigeria.

The fund, established in 2003 to provide finance for vessel acquisition among indigenous operators in Nigeria, has grown from $195 million to $350 million (210 billion naira) in one year. This figure represents a percentage increase of 56% between 2021 and 2022.

Former Minister of State for Transport, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, while commenting on the CVFF, said it was a national disgrace that no indigenous shipowners could access the fund which was designed to allow them to acquiring ships nearly 20 years later. have been established.

Although she assured indigenous shipowners that the fund was still intact contrary to speculation by some that it could have been misappropriated, experts are urging the new minister, Sambo, to ensure transparent disbursement of the facility so that shippers who died and patients can bounce back. live.

Daily Sun reported that the guidelines for the disbursement of the fund have been designed and will soon be presented to the National Assembly for approval. It would be immediately followed by the actual disbursement of the funds to the beneficiaries already pre-selected. To address the lack of training at sea for Nigerian sea cadets, a former Home Minister and Managing Director of Genesis Worldwide Shipping, Emmanuel Iheanacho, has called for a partnership with major shipping lines calling at the country’s ports to absorb them for the obligation to live.

Alternatively, he advised that modern ships could be acquired and placed on the fleet of major shipping companies doing business in the country. These ships, he added, must be manned by Nigerians and meet international liner standards.

He stressed that what was needed was a professional with the right persuasive skills to negotiate with the liners.

In a broad analysis, the continued underdevelopment of its maritime industry in Nigeria, poor port infrastructure, pollution, unease of doing business, lack of synergy between government and foreign trading partners are believed to be factors that jeopardize the country’s chances of securing a seat on the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

Indeed, Nigeria’s failure to fully implement some of the IMO conventions and instruments continues to affect its return to the organization.

Specifically, Member States are required to fully implement certain mandatory instruments to qualify for election in the IMO Council categories.

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