Rotimi Amaechi is a man who divides opinion in the Nigerian political arena. It is doubtless that he made some landmark achievements during his stint as the governor of Rivers state, although his administration wasn’t devoid of allegations which became amplified as soon as he decamped from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the All Progressives Congress (APC). The former Rivers state Governor Amaechi triggered a national political realignment when he walked out of the PDP in November 2013, an act which was tipped to make him more reserved. However, Amaechi became more outspoken, bold and brash as he took on all comers without fear of the consequences. Today, he is the Transport Minister and the ministry has begun to feel the pangs of his loquacity.
As the Minister of Transport, Amaechi’s recent visit to relevant agencies and the ports in Lagos revealed that the man may have transformed from the fearless outspoken administrator who says things as they were into a more humorous supervisor who dramatizes with issues as well as the actions and inactions of his subordinates. Anyone who followed his tour from the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to the Tin-Can and Apapa ports, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), would have been thrilled at his comic but realistic ways of analyzing several issues especially at NIMASA. MMS Plus offers you an opportunity to examine some of his hilarious assertions during his recent visit to Lagos.
“Cowards die many times before their deaths.”
Rotimi Amaechi repeated this Shakespearean quote severally when he realized NIMASA workers were reluctant to answer any of his questions because they wouldn’t dare indict their boss. Prior to this statement, Amaechi had asked the staff of NIMASA if they were happy with the state of affairs at the agency and also on the state of the Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre (NMRDC).
The minister went on to explain the quote from Julius Caesar, stating that a coward dies as a result of the fear of death not the death itself. By the time death comes, it just buries the coward. On the other hand, the brave experience death only once.
Since I became the Minister of Transportation, if 50 people call me for jobs about 49 want me to fix them in NIMASA and only one would love to work with NPA and nobody wants to work with me in the Ministry of Transport. When I asked why they wanted NIMASA, their response is always the same; they say there is plenty of money in NIMASA
The minister expressed shock that most people who had reached him for job placement since he became the transport minister wanted to be fixed in NIMASA. Amaechi wondered why the general perception of Nigerians is that there is plenty of money to be looted at the agency, yet NIMASA had a lot of projects yet to be accomplished?
“What I saw in NIMASA is a No! No! No! No! You have a wonderful building as your headquarters but when we went to the Resource Centre, there is nothing about resource in that centre”
The minister made this remark on the haphazard state of the Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre (NMRDC) Kirikiri while addressing the management of NIMASA at the NIMASA headquarters after he had insisted that some junior staff of the agency were present at the conference.
“Anybody can have a stethoscope– You only need to be a doctor to use one- but you don’t need to be a doctor to buy one”
On the shambolic state of the medical laboratory at the Resource Centre in Kirikiri, Amaechi lamented that the only significant medical equipment he found in the laboratory was a stethoscope which he described as a tool anyone could purchase since one doesn’t need to be a doctor to own a stethoscope. Amaechi revealed that the main doctor had one stethoscope, while two other female doctors were sharing one.
“When I visited the place called laboratory, there were no equipments there at all. I found the toilet unkempt and they had officers who read Agriculture and Law in the laboratory. In short, let’s assume it is an office because there is nothing in the laboratory to make it qualify as one. Absolutely nothing!”
Amaechi delivered the scorecard of the laboratory at the Nigerian Maritime Resource Development Centre (NMRDC) Kirikiri.
“The hundreds of billions that NIMASA has spent only God knows where they have spent it, if NIMASA has the responsibility for security, protection including search and rescue, then we are yet to begin. With the kind of money I hear they have spent, it is enough to get the essential equipments and I have not seen these equipments, except these equipments are probably in the water”
Rotimi Amaechi stated this after he ordered the Director of Finance to furnish him with all the records of contracts awarded by NIMASA since inception because he wanted to know where and how NIMASA had spent hundreds of billions since its origin. He demanded that NIMASA should take him to the said equipments and facilities that the agency had acquired with colossal figures. He sarcastically asked if the equipments were in the water. At this point, the countenance of the Acting DG, NIMASA Haruna Jauro was extremely worrisome.
There was more drama at NIMASA when the Minister received a copy of MMS Plus with the headline: “Arrest Amaechi”. He quickly threw his hands in awe asking the journalist “what has Amaechi done this time?” however, he paused and looked further at the story to find that his alleged arrest referred to an arrest by the ever-present Apapa gridlock so that he could feel the pangs commuters suffer daily as they ply the Apapa road. Alas the minister realized that he had been beaten by the figurative MMS Plus headline, he made a faint attempt to suppress his smile and retorted that the issue of traffic jam was occasioned by bad roads which should be addressed by the Ministry of Works.
“You appear more organized and I am impressed with the environment, I hope others will learn from you, it can’t be poverty that is making the other agencies look dirty as they are, government has spent billions of naira on them and nothing to show”
Rotimi Amaechi was full of commendations for the Nigerian Shippers Council. He advised other agencies in the transport sector to take a cue from the Shippers Council in terms of organization, management and maintenance of clean environment. Amaechi assured that his office will pay more attention to ensuring that the Nigeria Shippers Council is empowered to regulate all the stakeholders in the maritime sector efficiently and he added that he will learn more from the Shippers Council on how to push the industry forward.
Amaechi’s fearless speeches are becoming legendary and this has endeared him to many Nigerians. The helmsmen at various agencies relating to the Ministry of Transportation better get cracking and brace themselves for more of his candid opinions. Love him or loathe him, one thing is certain; Amaechi has a large followership as a result of his blunt speaking.
By Kenneth Jukpor