2023: I Will Tackle Ports Corruption, Congestion, Infrastructure Decay If Elected President, Says Kwakwanso

kwakwanso making a speech at the event...

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*Decries non-disbursement of CVFF to indigenous shipping operators
By Francis Ugwoke
The Presidential Candidate of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP), Senator Rabiu Kwakwanso, on Tuesday decried the tradition of corruption, congestion, infrastructure decay in the ports system and assured that he will tackle all these issues if elected in 2023.
Kwakwanso also expressed concerns that Nigeria has remained without a national carrier decades after the liquidation of the of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) by the federal government over debt related issues in 1995.
Speaking at a Town Hall Meeting organized by the Prime Maritime Project, the former Kano State Governor said he was aware of most of the challenges confronting the maritime industry and was ready ddress them if elected.
He pointed at the issue of ports congestion and gridlock on the ports access road and said he once witnessed it during a visit to Lagos sometimes ago.
He said that the issue of congestion was because the ports were planned in the 1950s and designed for a population of 50 million people as against now with a population of 200 million people.
He assured that his administration if elected will address such issues as infrastructure which has remained static.
Kwakwanso also promised that when elected, he will ensure that the Customs Service and other regulatory agencies must be made to perform efficiently and effectively.
He gave his words that the observed high level corruption in the ports system will be tackled to improve productivity in the ports.
Kwakwanso said “My being here today is out of personal conviction that the maritime sector is a critical element to the growth, survival and prosperity of Nigeria. Again, anybody who forgets his root will never go far in life. The maritime industry gave birth to our great party, the NNPP; as such | cannot disregard any invitation for whatever reason, coming from the sector.

“So, my being here is largely to listen, appreciate and understand the expectations of maritime operators from me and our party should we eventually emerge winners of the 2023 general elections. Though | may not have been fully involved in maritime sector to understand its nitty-gritty but my experience over the years as a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, former Governor, former Minister of Defense and a former Senator has availed me with some basic understanding of the sector and especially some of its challenges.

“| have listened to this wonderful audience and have noted your expectations. | can tell you that |! am aware of most of the challenges facing the sector presently. One of such, for instance is congestion on port access roads in Apapa. It may interest you to know that in one of my visits to Lagos sometimes ago, | was in Apapa and was stunned at the spectacle of articulated trucks lining the ljora Bridge. To me, it was an unacceptable eyesore in a twenty-first century Nigeria. | was even made to understand that | came when things had improved. This is highly unacceptable!

“It goes to show that we rarely plan for the future. A port system originally designed for a population of less than 50 million people in the 1950s with less than 2.0 million cargo throughput has remained almost the same for more than 200 million population in 2022. When a country’s population is increasing at geometric progression and port infrastructure remains static, the resultant effect is chaos. To me, that is the cause of the ljora Bridge debacle and other issues.

“So many things have gone wrong with the industry | can still remember the days of the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NN L) with its beautiful ships flying Nigeria’s flag across the globe! Why did ‘t die? Why do we not have a replacement as the giant of Africa? What has become of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF)? Why has it not been disbursed to beneficiaries? From my little knowledge of the sector, a lot of questions are begging for answers!

“It is also my desire to see that the Customs and other regulatory agencies must be made to perform efficiently and effectively. The observed high level corruption in the system has to be tackled to improve the productivity in the ports.

“Again, it is worthy here to make mention of effective border checks and control to stem the tide of smuggling and its related security implications. indeed, the entry points of Nigeria shall attract the desired attention of my administration if elected the President.

“In. summation, the desired assistance to all importers of goods, manufacturers including exporters and other ancillary stakeholders associated with port operations and management will be guaranteed under our party’s regime, by the special grace of God! “
The Chairman Board of Trustees of the NNPP, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, said it was time for Nigeria to change from the old order to the new order.
Aniebonam who is the founder of the NNPP and also founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) said this was because of the system collapse in the country, adding that with the situation, there has to be tactics to achieve the best.
Decrying frustration in the country, he said it was not about blaming anybody but finding a lasting solution.
He said the NNPP has a child of God as a presidential candidate who has the capacity to fix Nigeria.
The BoT Chairman told freight forwarders and other stakeholders who were at the event that they will benefit from Kwakwanso’s presidency if he wins the election.
The Chief Operating Officer of the Prime Maritime Project, Elder Asu Beks in his welcome address described the Townhall meeting as the first of its kind and aimed at extracting a social contract from presidential candidates of political parties.
Beks said, “WHY A TOWN HALL MEETING? While it is a truism that this sector is the most resourceful after Oil and Gas and given its immense contributions to our national economy, regrettably, successive administrations have continued to undermine the vast potentials of the maritime industry and have failed to articulate an enduring maritime strategy that will enable us harness its vast potentials. We have continued to make ourselves a laughing stock in the comity of maritime nations. With over 42 thriving sub Sectors which cut across ship building, freight forwarding, haulage, dry docking, seafaring, a promising blue economy, etc, it is the view of PRIME MARITIME PROJECT, that this sector holds the ace as the most beautiful bride of the 18 presidential candidates in the February, 2023 presidential election.

“That is why we want stakeholders present here, to take this unique opportunity to make an appraisal of those issues which have remained unresolved over the years. For instance, why can’t we have a separate M nistry of Maritime Affairs? What is holding back the proposed National Transport Commission Bill? Why are our ports not linked by rail including the Lekki deep sea port that will be commissioned next month? Why do our ports suffer such a huge infrastructural deficit and we paying giving lipservice to talks about the ease of doing business when in actual fact Nigerian ports remain the most expensive tn the West and Central African subregion?

“What do we gain as a nation by recycling politicians to head key parastatals in a sector that is highly professional? | can go on and on with these tales of woes.

“Based on this premise, industry stakeholders are seeking to drive home a process of advocacy that will salvage Nigeria s Maritime Industry to a matter of “National Priority *. Therefore, as Nigerians prepare to € ect another President to steer the affairs of this nation, industry stakeholders are unanimous in their Quest to extract a MARITIME AGENDA from the in-coming administration”.
The Moderator of the event, Mr Ray Ugochukwu, who is a member of the PMP said the Townhall meeting was mainly to hold the presidential parties accountable if any of them wins the presidency.
Ugochukwu said the maritime sector was among the ‘hens that lay the golden eggs’ as far as the nation’s economy is concerned.
According to him, everything must be made to ensure that political office holders pay attention to the development of the sector because of its economic relevance.

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