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AfCFTA: Experts Lament Harsh Nigerian Transport Industry

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By Kenneth Jukpor

Following the recent signing of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), Transport veterans in Nigeria have urged the Federal Government to address the numerous challenges which has made the transport environment harsh for businesses to thrive.

The experts, who made this known at the 2019 MMS Transport Leadership lecture organized by Kings Communications Limited, noted that the current frosty state of the nation’s transport sector would place the country in a disadvantageous position when the implementation of AfCFTA begins.

Speaking with newsmen at the event, the Executive Secretary on Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) said, “Government is aware that the Nigerian transport environment is harsh as it is. The first thing is to realize that the sector is harsh and the government has realized this and it is taking deliberate steps to make sure that the environment is less harsh”

He stated that the development of AfCFTA, which would have about 1.3billion people affected in the $2.3billion economy, meant African nations including Nigeria should brace up for competition and a free economy devoid of protectionism.

“Nigerian infrastructure must be rebuilt to reduce cost of production to give the nation an edge with AfCFTA. We are exploring how Nigeria can fit into this and grow its economy based on its trade, production, efficiency and infrastructure. We are talking about transport infrastructure and energy. These are two very important things that we have to concentrate on at this conference. I’m sure that there will be fireworks during the conference and the transport fraternity will bring something for the government to consider”, he said.

He observed that the organizers were able to bring key stakeholders together. “We have the terminal operators, shipping lines, government, freight forwarders, railway and aviation experts and all categories of people who contribute to this industry. The essence of coming together is to churn out policies” he added.

On his part, the Chairman of the occasion and former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Barr. Temisan Omateye observed that the Cabotage regime in Nigeria had failed.

He urged the industry experts saddled with the responsibility of Cabotage review under the NIMASA Joint Stakeholders committee, to work on the issue as though Cabotage was just beginning in the country.

Noting that the problems in Cabotage implementation started under his leadership, he absorbed some of the blame, “To fail is not a bad thing, you can only learn from your failures and we are learning from our failures. That is why I am going to probably say, whether I like it or not, I take blame for whatever way I have been part of the failure and I apologize for that failure. But the bottom line quite simply is, I will say it the way it is, Cabotage has failed. Let us start from today to make Cabotage work.”

Meanwhile, in the lecture titled, “Leadership In A “Next Level” Democracy: Striking A Positive Balance In Transport Sector”, the Secretary-General of Abuja Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), on Port State Control for West and Central African Region, Mrs. Mfon Usoro admonished Nigeria to find its area of advantage in the transport sector and capitalize on it.

She stressed the crucial role of leaders in ensuring that the sector’s goals are clearly outlined and all stakeholders in the public and private sector are focused on achieving the identified goals, noting that the government and the industry must work together to gather and direct resources both human and capital towards the achievement of these goals.

According to her, African countries could be popular like other leading countries in shipping business if they recognized and harnessed all the means of transportation such as road, rail, water, piping and air transportation systems.

She added that having integrated policy and linkages was the only way to make African countries a force to reckon with in global shipping business.

“There are four categories maritime nations can dominate, they are; Shipping, Maritime Finance, Maritime Logistics and Maritime Technology. China is leading under shipping, Singapore is leading in the area of maritime logistics, New York is leading in maritime finance, while South Korea is leading in terms of maritime technology. It is the country that distinguishes itself in a particular area that will gain advantage”, she said.

Noting that AfCFTA was more of an opportunity than a threat to Nigeria, she said, “AfCFTA is a positive development but for the continent and Nigeria in particular to benefit every sector has to sit up to take advantage of what we have and what we can do”

In her contribution, the President, Women’s International Shipping and Trading Association (WISTA) Nigeria, Mrs. Mary Hamman called for gender balancing as a prerequisite to positive changes in a different level for the industry, noting that women had a lot to offer in the industry and had all it takes to do whatever anybody can do in the industry.

According to Hamman, once that balance is struck the industry will see the next level leadership. “With the crop of leaders we have in place now that are out to score some points, women are not just there to occupy space. We can see what women are doing in the leadership of NIMASA, Shippers’ Council and the exemplary woman at the helm of NPA.”

“I’m not going into details in those areas but when we focus on what we want and we are positive about it, definitely we will see changes in the maritime industry. This means all hands must be on deck, it cannot be left to one set of people, women must be involved” she added.

The event also featured the award of the Most Purposeful Transport Agency in 2018 to the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB). AIB had qualified for the accolade after ranking top in among fourteen transport agencies rated quarterly in 2018 by MMS Plusnewspaper.

Earlier, the Chief Executive Officer, Kings Communications Limited, Mr. Kingsley Anaroke lamented that the transport sector had suffered from poor leadership over the years as the choice candidates haven’t been driven by professionalism.

According to Anaroke, this problem has limited the contribution of the transport sector to national growth.

He noted that the quest to maximize the huge potentials in the sector through the right leadership or performance based leadership capable of positioning the sector to take its critical place in the Next Level agenda of the current regime and the emerging new technology-driven transportation world that gave birth to the MMS Transport Agencies’ Performance Rating  with its reward system, Award for sterling performance to spur others to action, while the lecture arm of it, the Transport Leadership Lecture is to help crystallize the philosophy of good governance.

 

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