Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Mr. Mua’zu Jaji Sambo, who assumed office in July 2022 has been tipped for immense accomplishments upon the expectations of the industry stakeholders, despite having to stay only five months in office. While the Maritime Industry has always advocated for the appointment of an industry member to administer the transportation ministry and when President Buhari appointed Mr. Mau’zu, a former General Manager of the Nigerian Inland Waterways to head the Ministry of Transportation, stakeholders in this industry showed their elation. However, there has been rounds of skepticism, as regards what can be achieved within this short space of time. Sambo, a former Minister of State of Works, spent the year prior to his appointment scrutinizing the maritime industry, in a bid to understand the systems in place and identify areas that need urgent attention.
As the administration’s span draws to an end, stakeholders have identified important areas of intervention for the incumbent administration before changing to the next administration. Some of these include the quest for a national carrier to enhance the shipping capacity, the disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) and the completion of railway projects that would be connected to ports, including the new Lekki Deep Seaport. These were issues that the former a minister, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi could not finish up before resigning to contest for the Presidential ticket of the All Progressive Congress. Other issues include rehabilitating the port infrastructures, renewal of the concession agreement with operators of terminals whose tenure might have expired.
The Cargo Tracking Note expected to be signed after failed attempts.
Presently, there have been fraud allegations trailing the activities of the port industry in Nigeria. Most of the stakeholders are being indicted of one or more fraud cases. All the operators, including the importers, forwarders, custom agents have all been reportedly involved in these cases of fraud. Reports show that those who have been tasked with policing the system like the Custom Officers, agents of the Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have fed off the illegalities of numerous shoppers. The Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), championed by the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) was enacted as the port’s economic regulator to address this issue. In fact, stakeholders believe CTN to be a viable solution for curbing the fraudulent activities in the shipping industry.
However, the Sambo regime is being observed in regards to the fate of the CTN Bill which attempts at signing it into law were unsuccessful. Much is also being expected of the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), which is without a permanent office. N800 million was approved to the agency under the regime of the former Transportation Minister for the acquisition of a new office which was stopped by the Board of Council, upon objecting against the acquired office. Allegations about the value of the office against the granted sum of money heralded this challenge. The minister is however expected to play a crucial role in developing the maritime industry, on the expectations of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), where Nigeria might be vying for a post next year.
NIMASA is saddled with a lot of statutory obligations.
Importantly, Sambo must see to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) designing necessary strategies to win the election. As one of the top Maritime agencies, NIMASA is saddled with a lot of statutory obligations but with it functioning to deepen indigenous shipping development, the agency definitely has a full hand. Though the agency has been immensely incredible in performing their tasks, stakeholders are of the belief that there is more to be done. To both the local and international communities, the agency has done a good job in its war against piracy in the Deep Blue Project. Stakeholders however hold on to an expectation of consistency of ensuring that cases of piracy should never be allowed to occur again.
Perhaps, the major task left for the transportation minister in which most operators in the industry are also looking forward to is the disbursement of the CVFF. Hon. Rotini Amaechi’s promise to enact this was met with unsuccessful attempts. Many operators believe that there is no fund to enact this goal and the ministers, yet to come out with the truth. Sambo, upon his swearing in as transportation minister promised to disburse this fund. He recently indicated that he had received approval from the President to disburse the funds and has immediately tasked the Central Bank of Nigeria to do the needed. If successful, he would have met the expectations of industry stakeholders.
Stakeholders expect Sambo to resolve port concession agreement issue.
The port concession agreement is another important issue that is expected to be addressed. A review of the expired port concession agreement is expected to commence immediately. This review during the regime of Hadiza Bala Usman as the Managing Director of NPA. The importance of this remained very unclear until Bello-Koko’s takeover. While Bello-Koko had immediately carried out the assignment, the minister is expected to give his approval for the next phase. Although, the outcome of this process is still not clear, stakeholders expect the minister to resolve the issue before the expiration of his tenure.