By Kingsley Anaroke
The appointment of Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi as the Transportation Minister on November 11, 2015 was received with mixed feelings in the sector; It was expected. Many had a fixed impression about him as no less an eel, given his role in the recent political theatrics in Rivers State.
Some felt he would make an errant minister because he has no transport knowledge or expertise. Others however believed he could make a difference because of his personality trait, which is underscored by a simple expression-“quitters don’t win”. He never quits, and does not fear bullies.
To Amaechi, the transport ministry portfolio is a voyage begun and would like to end it well, with cheers. And to the stakeholders, he is a discovery to be made.
Nigerians had bandied many thoughts and some still do on why President Mohammed Buhari handed to him the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
Of the truth, the summation of the thoughts is that the transport ministry is where he could recoup his political expenditure on President Buhari, a belief viewed by the rational minded as a crass underestimation of the transport sector that is the artery of the economy, as it plays a significant role in promoting an effective functioning of other sectors.
In his usual innocence, Amaechi, during his maiden visit to the parastatals under his ministry in Lagos said,” I am not a transport expert”. Little did the Minister know the weight of humility made bare. This was to later attract empathy, support and open-mindedness from the experts and stakeholders, who interpreted it as a solicitation for help. Amaechi got it.
No Minister of Transportation in recent past had the level and number of engagements with stakeholders like Amaechi, just in eight months in office. At meetings and conferences, he asks questions and will always say, ”I want to learn.”
As expected, he has had a couple of trials and errors in the course of his learning, and even confessed at a point that he would rather remain a governor than being a minister on the scale of choice. To him, ministerial responsibilities come with forests of bureaucratic bugs. This notwithstanding, Amaechi is very determined to have some key deliverables to mark his one year in office come November, this year.
Not minding his hubris and leadership exuberance, being counted as delinquency, he got a first class endorsement for performance from President Buhari recently, during the commissioning of the Abuja-Kaduna track and flag –off of the Abuja-Kaduna train services on Nigeria’s first ever standard guage rail track to go into operation.
“The Minister of Transportation, Chief Rotimi Amaechi and his team have put great efforts in the last few months to ensure the successful completion of this project under this Administration,” Buhari noted.
There could not have been a better acknowledgment of Amaechi’s efforts to make a mark by changing lives in this voyage of his than these few words of commendation from Buhari, his employer.
That is from the rail subsector, and a completion of a project conceived by the previous administrations, and he remains humble enough to give credit to them as the forerunners.
In the maritime sector, Amaechi’s leadership restlessness is daring. Against all odds, he has embarked on the mission to re-launch Nigeria into the mainstream shipping business by insisting on the establishment of a national carrier. In less than six months, the steering committee made up of some critical stakeholders, and chaired by Barr. Hassan Bello, Executive Secretary and Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC), has made impressive impact, with a serious foreign partner in their kitty and volumes of potential cargoes waiting to be freighted by the emerging national fleet. It is expected that before November, 2016, a new national fleet of vessels will be launched.
To avoid poverty of leadership and fight corrupt tendencies, Amaechi is determined to begin and sustain performance audit of the government agencies and terminals concessioned to private operators. The process is on-going.
Before now, National Single Window Network platform in Nigeria was a subject of political chess game, while Ghana, Benin Republic and other West African neighbouring countries feasted on the vacuum to grow their economies. It took a mere briefing for Amaechi to see the inherent benefits, which include advanced cargo tracking information opportunity, antidote to revenue leakage, cargo security, a check on capital flight, correct tonnage declaration, amongst others.
In Ghana, the integration of the Advanced Cargo Tracking Note(ACTN) with the Single Window Network platform is a perfect experience being mid-wifed and managed by the Ghana Shippers’ Authority(GSA).
In Nigeria, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) has the mandate to implement the Cargo Tracking Note(CTN), as a unit of the National Single Window Network platform to widen the income net of the Federal Government.
At the last count, the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) has subscribed to the CTN platform, among other numerous clients, which include the shipping lines.
So far, the scheme with a re-juvenated board of directors composed of credible Nigerians as members of the consulting company, has generated well over $1.8million(about N320millon) on partial test run in less than one year.
One can imagine what the capital flow will be like for the Federal Government when fully operated. It is another hope for the economy in recession.
The Nigeria Customs Service(NCS), Manufacturers Association of Nigeria(MAN),freight forwarders, shippers’ associations, among other stakeholders have all come to embrace CTN as a key instrument of sanity in the international trade supply chain and trade facilitation.
Amaechi is certainly a man of destiny. He will be writing his name in gold and elevating the government of President Buhari high by throwing his support for the full implementation of CTN and the Single Window project in Nigeria.
This is a flag- ship project with international recognition that sure underscores the change and anti-corruption objective of President Buhari’s administration.
The Minister on 5th May, 2016 inaugurated the Bakassi Deep Sea Port Steering and Delivery Committee as a demonstration of the Federal Government’s desire to harness the vast potentials of the maritime sector for sustainable economic development.
However, one area where the Minister’s attention is needed is the land transportation mode. Successive ministers in the past failed to give attention to this sub-sector with the highest concentration of the masses’ patronage. And a plausible reason for this neglect which has never been debunked is that it is not “a money spinner for the minister” like the other modes.
The Land mode is a symbol of chaos, and demands sanitisation. And there is certainly no federal agency in control, and perhaps, the only hope now rests with the passage of the National Transport Commission (NTC) bill into law. Efficient and effective inter-modal transport system will remain a wish and a dream if the various modal units are not fixed for active cohesion.
A positive policy thrust in this area will have direct great impact on the lower and middle income classes, especially with the rail mode still battling to occupy its rightful place in the logistics chain in Nigeria.
As Amaechi continues his voyage, stakeholders are keen on keeping their dates and impressions with their discoveries, while some pray he turns out be the long awaited “Change Agent” in the transport sector.
These footprints, obviously, do not suggest biting more than he can chew. The feedbacks from the various committees leave the hope that the change will crystallize into transformation in no time.
KINGSLEY ANAROKE is the Publisher of MMS PLUS Weekly Newspaper firstname.lastname@example.org