Former Governor of Rivers State, Rotimi Amaechi was appointed Minister of Transportation to superintend what were previously two ministries —Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Aviation, with Senator HadiSirika as Minister of State.
By virtue of the fusion of the erstwhile ministries — transport and aviation — the new Transportation Ministry has 13 agencies and parastatals to be overseen by Amaechi and his minister of state, Sirika.
The agencies in the maritime subsector include the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), the Nigerian Shippers Council, the Maritime Academy of Nigeria and the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding of Nigeria (CFRRN) in addition to bodies and associations of industry operators.
In the aviation subsector, the ministry of Transport controls the Federal Airports Authority (FAAN), commercial aviation regulator, the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Nigerian Meteorological Agency, the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA), the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB) and the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology, which are, however, being managed by the Minister of State for Aviation, Senator HadiSirika.
Other agencies in the Transportation ministry include the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) and the Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT).
Investigations reveal that, despite efforts by the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to reposition key agencies in the ministry, his overall performance, in four years, fell short of the hopes of Nigerians and industry operators.
This is not to conclude that the former governor did not record achievements in the transportation sector. For instance, under his watch, the railway sector received a boost in the forms of construction and rehabilitation.
Amaechi swaggers in railway and other sectors
Some major achievements recorded by the Ministry of Transportation since the emergence of Buhari-led administration are: the completion and flag off for commercial operations of the Abuja – Kaduna standard gauge railway in 2016; comprehensive repair of runway at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport (NAIA), Abuja to ensure safe and secure Air Transport System; commencement of the construction work on the Lagos – Ibadan railway standard gauge rail line with extension to the Lagos Port Complex at Apapa, Lagos; completion of the Itakpe – Ajaokuta – Warri railway standard gauge project, which was commenced over 30 years ago; repositioning of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron in Akwa Ibom; completion of four international terminal buildings in Port Harcourt and Abuja airports; the laying of foundation for East-West rail line
With the strategy to link major cities in the country with rail line, the Ministry of Transportation further completed the Lagos-Abeokuta Section of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project.
Under, Amaechi, the transportation ministry concluded and commissioned the first Inland Dry Port in Nigeria, sited in Kaduna State; and added more coaches and locomotives to the few available ones on the Kaduna-Abuja rail line.
Amaechi bows out with failures in key sectors
On the flip side, Amaechi was unable to deliver much success in the maritime sector. The performance of the erstwhile minister is rather unfortunate. For instance, shipping development underwent inestimable loss as indigenous capacity was almost wiped out.
Over 90 per cent loss of capacity was recorded by indigenous ship owners, thereby causing high mortality rate.
Under Amaechi’s watch, insecurity on Nigeria’s maritime realm worsened. All forms of insecurity, such as piracy, sea robbery, kidnapping for ransom, oil theft, illegal trafficking, among others within the nation’s maritime territory tripled.
This insecurity upstretched shipping charges as foreign ship owners feared coming to Nigerian waters. Those, who gathered the courage to come, hiked series of surcharges on Nigerian shippers while insurance premium also doubled the previous charges.
The $195 million maritime security contract, which was in line with efforts to check increasing criminal activities, might have helped, assuming the contracted was implemented.
For four years, the former minister failed to expend the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), an interventionist fund meant to develop indigenous capacity in shipping.
Also, on assumption of duty, the former governor promised to deliver the National Shipping line. He failed to keep to his promise. With this, however, Nigeria lost and had since continued to lose numerous economic and human development opportunities.
Amaechi failed in his plan to float a national carrier. According to him, the project was suspended because cabinet members were divided on the modalities for its establishment. The cancellation announcement came barely two months after Nigeria unveiled the proposed airline at the Farnborough Air Show in England on July 18.
Due to lack of concentration, foresight, and negligence, infrastructural decay, high cost of doing business at the ports and government policy inconsistencies, Nigerian ports, under Amaechi, lost initiatives to the neighbouring countries like Togo, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire.
A customer care representative, Seyi Oloyede, opined that Amaechi did well during his tenure as Transportation minister. According to him, “there was a huge restoration in the railway sector, as well as major federal roads, and Niger Bridge.
“Amaechi also touched the aviation sector. He has done more than what Nigerians have expected.”
Sola Ogunaike, on the other hand, said: “His ministry is the most performing so far.
“He did his best in road, railway, water, and aviation sectors.
“Without saying much, Amaechi performed better than all other ministers.”
A civil servant, who does not want her name in print, said “we did not see any new mass transit scheme or improvement from his end, the only two projects Amaechi can confidently boast of are railway projects introduced and almost completed by his sworn enemy, former President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Nigerians had expected Ameachi to initiate modern mass transit schemes that will see more comfortable, cheaper, and safer mass transit choices available to the masses, but he failed woefully in this regard”.
Henry Ohakwe posited that “there is really anything to commend about the minister, as far as transportation in Nigeria is concerned today.
“I have not seen anything done in the transport sector except for the completion of existing projects in railways.
“President Buhari should endeavour to appoint competent ministers in his second term”.
Efforts to get the former minister’s reaction, however, proved abortive as telephone calls to his phone were not answered.