*Railway is our priority now- Amaechi
Against the backdrop of the recent media blitz that Nigeria might lose the headquarters of the proposed Regional Maritime Bank to other countries, the Federal Government has explained that her economy cannot fund the establishment of the specialized bank but was willing to assist the promoters attract investors from within the country.
Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, who made clarifications on the simmering issue in Accra, Ghana, last week at the just concluded two days African Ports Evolution(APE) Conference with theme: “ West Africa’s Port Development : A Key Driver To Unlocking The Regions’ Economic Potentials And Global Competitiveness”, added that rehabilitation of the nation’s rail system is the immediate preoccupation of the Federal Government.
He acknowledged the socio-economic as well as the political importance of having the bank headquartered in Nigeria but observed however that acquisition of vessel is not a tea-party affair, saying “ essentially, we will not have money to assist in the establishment of the bank, but we are willing to support its take-off in any other way you want us to. We are willing to let the promoters into the market. The West African market is the biggest market in the African region. So, we can help them attract investors, especially when they know that the Nigerian
government is backing the initiative”.
“ I was excited initially when they(delegation of the promoters) came but based on my experience with conmen foreign investors in Nigeria as the Gov. of Rivers States for eight years, I asked them where the money will come from. I am aware that acquisition of vessel is not one billion Naira. So it depends on where the money will come from. The Nigerian government will give you support, but if you depend on the money from us, we don’t have money now. We are focusing on rail transportation and when we are done with that, then we can go to the Maritime, and then the Air transportation. It is important we note that developments in these areas are on Public Private Partnership(PPP).” Amaechi stated.
The Minister reacted to questions at a session of the event in which participants and panelists complained of Nigeria’s lukewarmness to the establishment of the regional maritime bank in Abuja.
Former Secretary General, Maritime Organisation of West and Central Africa (MOWCA), Mr. Magnus Addico, at the occasion, had said that the establishment of the bank would solve the perpetual problem of funding port developments in the region. He said the World Bank was willing to assist with the consultancy needs of the bank, adding that both the World Bank and the African Development Bank(ADB) had given their express approval for the establishment of the maritime bank.
He had called on the minister to explain the delay behind the initiative, especially after a delegation of MOWCA members visited him and came back with good news but since then nothing has happened.
The approval for Nigeria to host the bank’s headquarters came through the 13th General Assembly of MOWCA in Dakar, Senegal in July 2008. It also got the approval of the Late President Umaru Yardua in February 2009, and got the latest approval with the resolution of the 14th General Assembly of MOWCA on August 2011 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo.
The bank project is a sub-regional initiative supported by multilateral agencies as the European Bank, World Bank and ADB.