Barely 24 hours after turning down an invitation to attend the ongoing annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association in Lagos, Rabiu Kwankwaso, the presidential candidate of the New Nigerian People’s Party (NNPP), participated in a town hall meeting with stakeholders in the state’s maritime sector.
At the Prime Maritime Project summit on Tuesday, Mr. Kwankwaso called for speeding up the rehabilitation of the access road to Apapa Port in Lagos State.
Mr. Kwankwaso made the call during a public meeting with Maritime stakeholders organized by Prime Maritime Project.
The NNPP presidential candidate did not honor the NBA’s invitation to participate in a plenary session on Monday in Lagos due to “other pressures national commitments.”
Mr Kwankwaso had been invited alongside other presidential candidates, including Atiku Abubakar of the PDP, Peter Obi of the Labor Party and Bola Tinubu of the APC.
Mr Tinubu also did not honor the NBA invite. He did, however, send his running mate, Kashim Shettima, to represent him.
The 62nd Annual NBA General Conference is themed “Bold Transitions” and is being held at the Eko Hotel on Victoria Island.
According to Mr. Kwankwaso, the country really needs to plan for the future of the maritime sector as it is essential for the growth and survival of the country’s economy.
“I listened to this wonderful audience and noted your expectations. I can tell you that I am aware of most of the challenges the sector is currently facing. One of them, for example, is the congestion on the access roads to the port of Apapa.
“It may interest you to know that during one of my visits to Lagos State, I was in Apapa and was amazed by the sight of articulated trucks lining the Ijora Bridge.
“To me, this is an unacceptable horror in a 21st century Nigeria. I was even made to understand that I was coming when things had improved. This is highly unacceptable.
“A port system originally designed for a population of less than 50 million people in the 1950s, with less than 2.0 million cargo, has remained almost the same for over 200 million people in 2022.
“When the population of a country increases in a geometric progression and the port infrastructure remains static, the resulting effect is chaos. For me, this is the cause of the Ijora bridge debacle and other problems. So many things have gone wrong with the industry,” he said.
The candidate said his experience over the years as a former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, former Governor, former Minister of Defense and former Senator has given him a basic understanding of the maritime sector and especially some of its challenges.
Mr. Kwankwaso said he wanted the Nigeria Customs Service and other regulatory agencies to be brought to function effectively and efficiently, saying the high-level corruption seen in the system needed to be tackled to improve the productivity in ports.
According to him, effective border checks and control would stem the tide of smuggling and its related security implications.
“Indeed, Nigeria’s entry points will attract the desired attention of my administration if the President is elected.
“The desired assistance to all commodity importers, manufacturers including exporters and other auxiliary actors associated with port operations and management will be guaranteed under our party regime, by the special grace of God!
“Suffice it to say that the NNPP as a party has its economy plan for which maritime and transport logistics are integrated,” he added.
Mr Kwankwaso, who secured the attention of stakeholders if elected, called for support in the 2023 general election to create a new and better Nigeria.
Emphasizing that the NNPP has a blueprint for the economy, including the maritime sector, Mr. Kwankwaso called on stakeholders to form the core who would be responsible for designing a feasible and workable maritime sector reform model.
He said such a model should include the clearance of goods arriving at ports within 72 hours as is done in other countries, the protection of privacy in the country’s territorial waters and the entire Gulf of Guinea, demining ports of pollution due to discharges from ships.
“Our government will consider the possibility of constructing a railway line between the ports of Apapa and Tincan Island to a dry port area outside Lagos, where arriving goods should be domiciled for customs clearance to prevent heavy trucks cause traffic jams in Lagos.
“We should also look into the possibility of opening other ports such as Warri, Port Harcourt, Calabar etc. to decongest the port of Lagos.
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“Furthermore, I can assure you that it will no longer be business as usual, under our watch, maritime professionals will take over the maritime sector,” he said.
Kunle Folarin, chairman of the occasion in his opening remarks, noted that the maritime domain was tired of being orphaned, tasking Mr Kwankwaso with rescue plans that would make the industry resourceful.
According to Mr. Folarin, Nigeria has the greatest potential with its maritime industry and therefore we need to use our resources such as the 900 nautical miles of coastline, 572 inland waterways and 10,000 km of waterways and others.
“The critical issues to be addressed are: new economic agenda for the sector, attention paid to the bordering States, the country must benefit from the concession of port terminals.
“We expect comprehensive port reform, a workable foreign direct investment policy, cabotage regime, grid field development, maritime security, free trade area restrictions, trade tariffs, everything this should be reviewed,” he said.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the public meeting brought together several maritime industry stakeholders as well as many NNPP leaders and candidates across the federation.
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