The appointment of Rotimi Amaechi as the Minister of Transportation was greeted with tension and anxiety among the industry stakeholders. Veterans in the maritime business had put forward several conflicting ideas on his roles as Transport minister. Experts in various parts of the industry also highlighted their expectations for the industry which has suffered poor policy implementation, inconsistent administrators, lack of skilled manpower, corruption, among other factors.
However, Rotimi Amaechi’s emergence as the Minister of Transportation has seen him deliver very brash analysis and comments on maritime agencies and several issues in the port environment. His speeches nowadays have also been characterized by controversial comments.
Although it is uncommon to find a Minister so willing to talk about sensitive issues, Amaechi’s loquacity has begun to perturb several stakeholders in the maritime industry as they feel his actions and statements seem to be geared towards ridiculing the agencies and parastatals under him. The rhetoric question is – shouldn’t Rotimi Amaechi be more concerned about restructuring and motivating these agencies as well as their executives to get the organizations perform optimally?
Amaechi has been observed to utilize every opportunity to portray his subordinate agencies as criminals by highlighting their flaws particularly every form of embezzlement or mismanagement in these agencies. While there is no doubt that beaming the searchlight on corrupt individuals and their actions is the right thing to do because others would learn from their retribution, but the scenario is such that the executives at these agencies have become bereft of the confidence required to effectively run their offices.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has been the major victim of Amaechi’s loquaciousness. Only recently, he accused the agency of giving out N32bn to a foreign investor in the shipping sector for the acquisition of vessels. Since Amaechi did not reveal the identity of this mystery investor, MMS Plus reached the NIMASA to confirm the report especially from the Cabotage department as the disbursed N32billion was perceived to have been paid from the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF). No one in NIMASA can confirm that the N32billion was given out, hence at MMS Plus, we urge Amaechi to reveal the name of the foreign investor.
It should be recalled that it was Rotimi Amaechi who set the tempo for the “probe” of the late rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Amb. Joshua Okpo. Amaechi had asked the late Rector to account for N18bn spent under his administration or face probe from the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). It is believed that anxiety as a result of the looming probe contributed to the cardiac arrest which took the life of the skilled Rector.
In a chat with an industry expert who pleaded anonymity, she lamented that Rotimi Amaechi needs to be called to order. She stressed that Amaechi was simply out to ridicule NIMASA and its executives.
“He should shut his mouth for crying out loud. Who are the benefactors of the loot? Wasn’t it Akpobolokemi and others who are facing trial with him today? The last time I heard Akpobolokemi has broke his legs and he is still under the custody of the EFCC. Why is Amaechi out to paint NIMASA so black and corrupt? If the agency was doing nothing as the public is meant to believe today – where did all the money that was looted come from? Is Amaechi trying to tell us that all the current executives of NIMASA are corrupt? Someone has to call Amaechi to order!” she blurted out bitterly.
According to her, Amaechi is a veteran in the nation’s political terrain and he is expected to encourage and motivate the agency, even as he hand picks the bad eggs in the agency. “Everyone in NIMASA can’t be bad. What is Amaechi doing to ensure the Acting Director General of NIMASA, Baba Jauro is confirmed or the appointment of someone else as the Director General? What is the way forward for the agency?” The angry maritime veteran exploded.
NIMASA’s Acting Director General, Baba Jauro has been reluctant to take daring managerial decisions because he is only functioning in “Acting” capacity. Our sources in NIMASA also attributed Baba Jauro’s slow pace managerial style to the heat that the Minister has put on him as well as the fact that EFCC operatives are still hovering around NIMASA, especially the top management staff at the agency.
Our source inside NIMASA stated that Baba Jauro had very slim chances of been confirmed as the DG of the agency, because he is at the centre of the corrupt allegations against the former D.G, Patrick Akpobolokemi. At that time, Baba Jauro functioned as the Executive Director (E.D)of Finance and Administration, it is believed that the EFCC would soon arrest him over the scandalous deals which were done while he held sway as E.D Finance and Administration.
The scenario at NIMASA has become so worrisome that all the top management have gone into their shells, refusing to address the press on any issue. Recently, MMS Plus reached a top management staff of the agency to inform her that her profile would be used for the “Woman of Fortune” segment of our publication, but she maintained that she did not want any publicity or to be in the press at a moment when every top executive was hiding.
At this point it is pertinent that Rotimi Amaechi realizes the need to encourage and motivate the top executives in the maritime agencies to create a conducive environment that would see the agency thrive and perform optimally.
Rotimi Amaechi has also stated that the development of the Nigerian Maritime University (NMU), Okerenkoko in Delta state would be halted and he opined that NMU was a waste of resources as the university had no structures on ground. He had also added that Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, needed the funds to be developed into a maritime university before NMU would be constructed.
The Minister’s explanations may sound logical but it was fiercely countered by Dr. E.K Clark in his recent open letter to President Buhari titled; “An Open Letter To His Excellency, President Muhhammadu Buhari, GCFR, On The Current Issues In The Niger Delta And Specifically The Case Of The Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta State And The Case Of Government Ekpemupolo (Tompolo)- A Passionate Appeal For Your Intervention”
E.K Clark accused Amaechi of deceitfully avoiding to mention that the Take-Off Campus of NMU at Kurutie which boasts of competitive and acceptable standard facilities was ready. According to Clark, the structures at Kurutie met the standards of the National Universities Commission (NUC) and the facility was part of the property of NMU for which NIMASA paid N13billion.
Amaechi was also recently quoted to have queried the location of the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta state. “We are not going ahead with the university project proposed by NIMASA because we have an institution in Oron… NIMASA is proposing to build a new one. How many parents will allow their children to go to such place where NIMASA proposes to site it?
E.K Clark referred to the statements of the Transport minister as “very insulting”, “callous” and “vindictive” on the Okerenkoko people. He posits that Okerenkoko is a major community in the Gbaramatu kingdom on the Escravos River and Gbaramatu is well known for its vast deposit of mineral resources with combined oil wells that run into 100s.
As a result of Amaechi’s assertion on the NMU, the indigenes of Okerenkoko Community in Delta State last week besieged Government House, Asaba, protesting the Federal Government’s move to cancel the Nigeria Maritime University sited in Gbaramatu Kingdom, Warri South Local Government Area.
Clark believes that Rotimi Amaechi’s plans are aimed at executing a personal vendetta against the people of Niger Delta. He admonished Amaechi to retrace his steps and reconcile with the people, emphasizing that Amaechi was appointed as Minister to represent Rivers state (Niger Delta people), based on constitutional provision.
Industry stakeholders advise Rotimi Amaechi to practice responding to issues rather than reacting to them. The difference is that to react is to speak without thought, while to respond implies conscious thought. In responding, we make a choice. We think before we open our mouths. There is a lot to be achieved in the transport industry which will be of immense benefits to maritime business and the nation at large. There is a general believe that Rotimi Amaechi is up to the task, but perhaps it is time for him to allow his genuine efforts towards transforming the industry do the talking.
By Kenneth Jukpor