Obasanjo warns against use of govt funds to establish new national shipping line

Former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, on Monday advised against the use of government funds in re-floating a new national shipping line, considering the waste and mismanagement suffered by the former Nigerian National Shipping Line(NNSL).
The former president was speaking as the chairman at the opening of a two-day maritime stakeholders’ summit on building a sustainable maritime industry, holding at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos.

 He said the maritime industry in Nigeria had huge potential capable of re-positioning the nation’s economy if and when the appropriate reforms were done.

He advised that the Nigerian maritime industry be driven on a Private, Public Participation (PPP) model for effective service delivery and economic benefits for the nation.

Obasanjo suggested that maritime institutions such as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Administration (NIMASA), the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) would be more efficient if modeled after the structure of the LNG.

According to the former president, the LNG, unlike the NNPC, is performing well and sustained in its delivery and growth because of the 51 per cent private participation and government’s 49 per cent investment.

He also made reference to the performance of the telecommunication sector, which he said succeeded because it was put in private hands to run.

 “With privatization of the telecommunications, in less than 10 years there are over 20 million lines and government did not out a dime in it,” Obasanjo said.

 He described the experience of the Nigerian National Shipping line and the Nigerian Airways as ‘heartbreaking’ and urged the transportation minister not to commit government funds into floating a new national shipping line, considering how 19 ships in the fleet went underground within 20 years.

Also speaking, the Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, said this administration was interested in reforms for meaningful change to benefit the economy, much as the operators in the various sub-sectors of the industry. 

He gave assurance to come up with an all-embracing maritime policy for Nigeria, while ensuring a safe and secure environment for both foreign and indigenous investors, for them to reap returns on investment and ensuring economic benefits to Nigerians.
The minister said computerizing the system would help to eliminate corruption, and enhance services with the single window.

He also noted that an efficient maritime industry would be driven with effective regulatory and omnibus service such as the flag-state and port state activities, port management and administration, freight forwarding and other ancillary services.

He pointed out the challenge of inadequate capacity level and revenue leakages, and stated the need to check mismanagement, corrupt practices, application of inappropriate technology and slow or no-response to industry demands as the case may be.

He expressed government’s commitment to ensuring a seamless multi-modal transport system to facilitate backward integration of all sectors of the economy.

 The minister urged stakeholders to support the laudable initiatives of government aimed at re-positioning the maritime industry for higher productivity and more efficient services.

He told the gathering that government would not put in money to establishing a new shipping line, as it had been agreed that the initiative be driven on private investment.