For some of us who were privy to the thinking of the President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s kitchen cabinet prior to the unveiling of the Ministerial list, the emergence of His Excellency, Adegboyega Oyetola as Minister in charge of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy did notk come as a surprise. It confirmed our fears that President Tinubu and his team would take back this key sector hitherto dominated by a part of the country.
I was privy to plans by the South West coalition to take back an industry which they argued was dominated by the Northern oligarchy for too long. Under the immediate past Buhari Administration, critical maritime agencies such as the Nigeria Customs Service, the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency as well as the Nigerian Shippers Council, were under the control of the North.
Apart from the obvious imbalance this portends, it was the thinking of the South West Coalition that the vast potentials which abound in this sector, which could have complimented the oil and gas sector was not exploited to its full potentials. Their argument was that those heading these agencies were anything but deep thinkers and were mostly transactional in their handling of affairs in the sector. The goal, therefore, was to “capture“ the sector and return it to her original owners by appointing tested professionals to manage the MDAs.
It was therefore no surprise that Adewale Adeniyi, a well tested career officer, was named as the Comptroller General of the Nigeria Customs Service. Nigerians are anxiously waiting to see what will play out at the NPA, NIMASA, the Nigerian Shippers Council, and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron in the months and days ahead. Meanwhile, Oyetola’s appointment has been received with mixed feelings by industry stakeholders and the generality of Nigerians.
Oyetola’s competence as a tested administrator having been the immediate past Governor of Osun State is not in doubt.
The fear, however, is that as complete stranger and someone seen as lacking the pedigree to run such a specialized Ministry, the industry is headed for another disaster, like we had in the disastrous seven years under former Governor Rotimi Amaechi. The fear of industry stakeholders is that political exigencies rather than globally accepted performance indicators would take centre stage under Oyetola.
Said a member of the Shipowners Association who craved anonymity: “We are back to the dark days under Amaechi. Don’t forget that Oyetola’s appointment was not based on professional competence , his appointment like that of Rotimi Amaechi was a compensation for delivering his State during the 2023 Presidential election”. There is palpable fear by stakeholders that the great milestones recorded during the 10 months tenure of Engr. Mu’azu Jaji Sambo as Transportation Minister may be wiped away. Under Sambo, the seeming jinx in the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF, was broken and in the process of being disbursed when the Buhari Administration ran down its tenure. “This was what Amaechi could not achieve in seven years”, said another commentator. Under Sambo, the Primary Lending Institutions (PLIs) were identified and named. Besides, one major milestone had to do with the PLIs accepting a single digit interest rate for the loan beneficiaries, which had been a bone of contention.
Another major win under Sambo was that he was able to secure the approval of President Muhammadu Buhari to move the CVFF funds from the TSA account to the Primary Lending Institutions. It is also to Sambo’s credit that the controversial Cargo Tracking Note, being championed by the Nigerian Shippers Council was at the final stages of legislation before the 9th National Assembly ran out its tenure. Mindful of the infrastructural decay at our seaports, Sambo was also able to commit the Federal Executive Council to secure approval of about $800 million for the upgrade of the Tin Can Island Port.
This was in addition to contracts awarded to build four new ports in various parts of the country, as part of efforts to decongest the Lagos corridor. As an industry professional who has had stints at the Nigerian Ports Authority and the National Inland Waterways Authority, Sambo was hailed as the most successful Transportation Minister in Nigeria’s recent history and was highly favoured to make a come back in President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s cabinet.
As Oyetola takes over as Minister in charge of the newly created Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, industry stakeholders are indeed sceptical as to whether he may meet the expectations of Nigerians. The days, weeks, months and years ahead will demonstrate his level of inventiveness.