Maritime industry: Waiting for the Minister

Today, July 8th, 2019, marks the 41 days since President Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in for the second term in office as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Yet Nigerians are still waiting, kept in suspense and in the dark when the President will form his cabinet.
Just like all Nigerians, stakeholders in the maritime industry are equally worried and expressed concerns over the delay in the  appointment of Ministers to help Mr President drive his Next Level Agenda.
Nigeriamaritime360.com is no less perturbed by the grave implications which the delay may have in positioning the maritime sector in global maritime community.
The industry presently needs to consolidate and deepen the marginal gains recorded under the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Even though, the industry did not fare too well under Amaechi as a result of contradictions in government policies, the little success recorded may flitter away due to lack of direction.
Presently,  due to the absence of ministers,  there is lack of coordination among the various agencies of government in the sector.
It is instructive to note that maritime sector, as the artery of the nation’s economy, consists of various agencies whose functions and activities are being supervised by five different ministries.
While the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Shippers’ Council, National Inland Waterways Authority(NIWA) and other subsidiary institutions are under the supervision of Ministry of Transportation, Nigeria Customs Service is under the Ministry of Finance.
The Nigeria Police and Immigration Service, another two critical agencies of government in the industry are under the Ministry of Interior while Port Health, Quarantine services and NAFDAC  are being controlled by the Ministry of Health and SON under the  Ministry of Trade and Investment.
The functions and activities of these critical agencies are central to the workings of the sector and without their various ministers to coordinate their activities and form the necessary synergy among themselves, the agencies may be like sheep without shepherd.
Beyond the fear of proper coordination among these agencies, our worries are further accentuated by the wrong signal this development may send  to prospective investors in the industry.
Both the local and foreign investors will adopt wait-and -see attitude, suspending their investments into the sector until the appointment of the ministers who have the capacity to enunciate and drive the implementation of government policies in the sector.
As a result, the longer  the delay in appointment of the Ministers, the longer the period the sector  would  suffer from the denial of necessary investments that can stimulate its growth and development.
It is our opinion that the President need not have taken this long to form his cabinet and hit the ground running since he now knows the capacity of those who have worked with him in the first term, if there is need to bring any of them back.
He also has fair knowledge of the system unlike in his first term when it took him about six months to form his cabinet, blaming his lack of knowledge of the system.
Senegal’s Macky Sall and South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa both appointed ministers within days of being sworn in as presidents this year.
Most prospective investors said they had hoped that as the incumbent, Mr President would move more quickly.

Since the dissolution of Buhari’s first cabinet in late May, the permanent secretaries oversee day-to-day operations of government agencies and departments but lack authority to approve major decisions.

Civil servants do not approve the capital expenditure, which means contractors are not getting paid.

This will have untold effects on the smooth running of the industry as it does to every other sectors of the economy.
At the departure of the former Minister, Rotimi Amaechi,  he acknowledged some areas in which he had failed the industry.
These include but not limited to the issues of insecurity on our waters,the aborted National carrier project.
It is imperative that the industry gets a vibrant minister , as quickly as possible , who will  not only resolve these knotty issue but also stimulate the industry to achieve its full potentials.
Any further delay by Mr President to appoint men  and women of integrity with proven level of competence to drive the reform process in the industry will  further arrest the stuttering steps of the sector.
We urge the President who does the selection, the security agencies which carry out the screening of  the ministerial  nominees and the National Assembly which does the confirmation of the nominees  to fast track the process in order to put the ministers in their areas of competence that would stimulate the  economic growth of the  country.

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