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FG has endorsed new maritime security architecture –Amaechi

Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi recently hosted the executive of the Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria (AMJON) in Abuja. During an interactive session, he revealed that the Federal Government is worried over criminality in the Nigerian maritime domain and piracy in the country’s waterways. But to handle the scourge, he disclosed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved new maritime security architecture to check the situation.

BUSINESS HILIGHTS was there.

Excerpts;

Piracy at the Nigerian waters, do you think these things would impact overall maritime security in Nigeria and the economy?

Well, the good news is that the President has approved a new security framework for the maritime sector and I will not be able to say much on it until we meet because for me it is when the chairman and co-chairman announce what structure they are. I don’t think we should go beyond that because if we go beyond that we are revealing the architecture of the national security.

 Nigeria’s economy has rapidly declined, causing serious worry to all, are you not considering way the national’s maritime potentials could be harnessed to get the country out of the woods?

I am not a magician and the solution is not even in importing, because it is not as if they are banned our vessels from traveling out and coming in with good into the country.

The actual fact is that Nigeria’s economy is import dependent, and so if there is downward trend in dollar purchases then, the chances of importation will also be lower and the implication therefore will be that the business both the larger and smaller ones will also not be rising it will rather be going down.

So when you ask if I have any particular time frame when the economy will start to boom again, I will say that I am not a magician to know but I am confident that the economy will soon be out of the woods, the Federal Government is working towards the growth of the economy, the Federal Government has said that they are looking for money to pump into the economy so that people will have money to buy and sell. When there is more money in the economy, then business activities will increase.

They are doing everything they can to put money in the system. I will not be able to mention other parts of the country because I am not there, but in Abuja here as I was coming; I was surprised to see that work has resumed on the road that was abandoned for a long time, near NTA, the man who owned the company was driving the Caterpillar, someone else was driving the tipper, most people would be employed, that is part of the way in which we can grow the economy. Julius Berger is working on the airport road, even if you are flying, you will still take that road to enter Abuja that is what the Buhari government is doing to reflate the economy.

Recently, the governor of Cross Rivers State was on set speaking on the dredging of Calabar port, for me as a person, I see the project as drain pipe in the purse of government. Several times the port had been dredged and the fund the Federal Government has sunk into the project has not yielded any dividend. So how long will we continue to spend money on the dredging of that project that is not viable?

  I don’t know if it is viable or not, let our professionals make that decision because that is why they are employed. What I will advise, because I am aware that the state government is partnering with the private sector to develop what they called Bakassi deep sea port, that is a good alternative to Calabar port and that will bring development to the area.

Let’s encourage the state government to develop the place and we should find solution to the dredging of the port, and government will decide what it wants to do with the place but I will advise along that line under my ministry.

Your Ministry has show a lot of interest in bringing the national carrier back to life since you assumed office, what is the situation of things now?

 I will tell you what is not gossip and what I think is gossiping. It is not a gossip that we attended a meeting with investors in Singapore and, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with them.

The foreign investors are ready. The problem is Nigerian investors. In that case, if you talk of Nigerian investors, we are talking about those who will bring in the money, I mean their own funds. Foreign investors have big vessels and the money, while Nigeria investors are yet to bring out their money. We need to buy vessels that can go to other countries for international and coastal trading.

So we are waiting for the Nigerian investors and what is gossip is that the local investors went to banks and banks did not give them money. I asked them to write, when they put it in writing, then I can tell the country that ZYX bank did not give the investors money and if I will advice, there should be debit equity funding, to fund 100 per cent debit will not be good for the Nigeria investors.

The security of the Nigerian waterways, we know that towards the end of the last administration, criminality, oil theft, maritime piracy and other crimes rose sharply in the Nigerian maritime domain. What is the situation now?

 I have said it before that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved a new security architecture for that nation’s maritime sector, and we are to meet next week. I will not go beyond that because if you tell a thief that you are coming to arrest him, you don’t expect him to remain there till you arrive.

 On rail transportation, there were controversies over a statement credited to President Buhari that General Electric (GE) of United States of America is coming to invest $2 billion in the Nigerian rail transport system, in a 25-year concession arrangement; but the US firm in a statement said it was investing just $150 million. What is the true situation of things?

 It is either you don’t read anything outside the maritime stories or you are being mischievous because GE has come out with a statement, explicitly saying that there were misunderstood when they said that they are going to invest a hundred and fifty million dollars, then, they came forward to say that the hundred and fifty million dollars is their current investment in the Nigerian Railways.

Going forward, they said that they are in negotiation with a consortium and that the consortium will invest $2 billion. I said $2 billion, but they said that the consortium will invest more than $2 billion.

The ports access roads like the Tin Can road is in a deplorable situation, what is your Ministry doing to make sure that the road to the seaports in Lagos are motorable?

The Federal Ministry of Work is doing the roads, although NPA wanted to do them but somehow the Ministry of Works wants to do them.