Chinenye Anuforo and Steve Agbota
As part of measures to permanently resolve the challenge of traffic gridlock in the nation’s premier ports, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday promised to modernise and reform the Nigerian ports and tackle all the challenges frustrating the development of port systems across the country.
Buhari who made the promise while presenting his speech at the 2019 Democracy Day celebrations held at Eagle Square in Abuja, said he recognised the fact that “It still takes too long for goods to be cleared at our seaports and the roads leading to them are congested. It still takes too long for routine and regulatory approvals to be secured. These issues affect our productivity and we are committed to addressing them permanently.”
According to him, despite the enormous resources pledged to infrastructure development in these past four years, there remains the urgent need to modernise our ports, roads and bridges, electricity grid, and rail systems.
However, maritime stakeholders who spoke with Daily Sun on the president’s broadcast yesterday, advised that if the President Buhari is serious about ports reform and modernisation crusade, he should not not engage politicians but should look for experts who understand the story of port management and reform.
The stakeholders urged Buhari to do what former President Olusegun Obasanjo did by looking for experts and get the people who would move the port forward as it is an area he can generate one million jobs if it is properly harnessed. They argued that Nigeria was going backward in the area of port development compared with countries like Ghana, benin, Togo and Cameroun that are busy developing their ports at the expense of Nigeria’s ports bound cargoes.
National President of National Council of Managing Directors of Customs Licensed Agents (NCMDCLA), Lucky Amiwero, said Ghana has spent close to $1.5 billion to expand its port and between two to three months, the ports will be declared open and when that happens and they don’t have cargo, it is Nigerian- bound cargo that will be going there.
He said Buhari himself cannot achieve all the promises on his own and cannot do it with politicians, but w with experts who understand the industry.
He added: “It is beyond political talk because the problems of Nigerian ports are in three phases. You have a short term; midterm and long-term solutions and this problems have been there for a very long time because the last time we had port reform was 2006. “Our draft level is low and it is not politicians that will solve that problem, it is experts that will solve them. The political will to develop the port is not the issue, but getting the experts with political will to solve the problem.
He further explained: “We are talking about the roads, there are laws governing the roads; there are procedures to the roads. The politicians don’t know all those things. So when you are talking about ports procedure, the politicians don’t know them even the convention. They also know nothing about international conventions, protocols, treaties and other laws that have to do with ports. Government has to bring in some people who doesn’t understand the ports system for a very long time. T
“You cannot continue to use politicians who don’t have a company in the port before. You can’t preside over something you don’t know.
Meanwhile, the Federal Government has promised to invest more in technology within the next four years.
President Muhammadu Buhari while speaking at the 2019 National Democracy Day at the Eagle Square, Abuja, said his administration will continue work to reduce social and economic inequality through targeted social investment programs, in education, technology and improved information.
Reacting to Buhari’s promise yesterday, telecom stakeholders urged the government to focus its planned investment on areas that create jobs for the people and improve the citizen’s wellbeing.
According to Mr. Olusola Teniola, President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), the government should focus on investment on digitisation of the economy. He said, “Almost all the sectors of the Nigerian economy need technology, from the power sector to agriculture and others to boost their services which will reflect on the economy.
He also urged the present administration to also look at investment in fibre optic which he said will contribute massively to the economy.
Hear him: “We need to build a lot more fibre, the economy has only 64,000 fibres optics. In the next three years, we need to build 120,000km of fibre Optics so that each local government will easily access broadband through fibre.”
Teniola noted that the government should also look at investing in 5G technology which is becoming the rave of the generation. “We need government to release the spectrum relating to 5G at affordable prices to service providers, as this will help boost their service delivery in the information technology space.
For his part, the Managing Director, IXPN, Muhammad Rudman, said the focus of the government should be to intervene in providing lower internet access especially for the universities students because quality education is the key considering that, the whole world is moving towards technology and innovation. Therefore, our university graduates must be globally competitive. So, the quality of education really matters and I think we must focus in providing interconnectivity to all our tertiary institutions.”
“The administration should also intervene on all the needs of telcos and ISP’s because most of them have certain issues that have regularly been discussed at different fora especially the issue of right of way, multiple taxation, access to US dollars. If they want to deliver, they should engage the stakeholders and hear from them and then, address their needs,” Rudman stated.