Our private sector too weak to support maritime dev - Amaechi
the feasibility studies?
I hope you know the dry ports where there before this administration. All the feasibility studies had been done and all the necessary approvals gotten before now. All that we are doing is implementation. But government is not funding them. Some of them have partnerships with the state governments but its largely private sector funds that are being invested in the dry ports. However, the state governments can provide the roads and probably power but the rest is provided by private investors.
How much is the maritime sector currently contributing to the GDP and how much should it contribute if it is properly harnessed?
Currently the contribution is low, I think less than 4 percent to GDP but our target is 55 percent contribution to GDP. That is a part of the questions the study we are conducting will answer: How much is the maritime sector contributing now? Is the right contribution and how do we improve? All that will be answered.
What would you say are your major challenges as minister of transportation?
We have a problem of funding and capacity. Most of the time as a minister, you can’t do the research. You need people to do the research and advice you. You need to do planning and organization.
There is this fight by Intels and NPA about the status of the Onne ports. What is really happening?
The matter is in court so what I say may be subjudice.
Recently, you flagged off the dredging of Onitsha channel in River Niger to enhance inland water transportation with just N100 million. How feasible is that?
What do they use to dredge, is it not dredgers? We have dredgers. So if it takes the contractor 24 days to dredge, we can dredge in two months. Its better we just spend N100 million to pay staff and buy fuel. NIWA is doing it. We are not that rich. We can’t be blowing N47 billion for something we can achieve with less.
In fact, I told NIWA to include in their budget for next year, the purchase of new and bigger dredger; so that we don’t give contract on that dredging again. Those who were using River Niger but stopped because of the silting of the river are beginning to go back because of the dredging that is happening. Go and check if the dredging isn’t successful.
What about river ports? the
We will complete the ones we can. We will complete Lokoja as Onitsha has been completed. There is Oguta too and Baro. Baro is completed, just a few things left and it should be commissioned before the year ends.
Our ports are still largely inefficient; which is why we are still losing cargo to neighbouring ports. What are you doing to change the narrative?
You must give us time. The Federal Government is doing single window. Single window means that in 24 hours, you will clear your goods. What we met on ground was basically manual clearing of goods, which is what we are using still but, we must deploy technology. If you go to Singapore, not more than 10 persons are managing the goods at the ports. They have about 64 million TEUS (unit of cargo capacity) in Singapore but only 10 people manage all that. They use technology. You only find drivers of the trucks. If you spend more than three minutes at the gate, someone will appear. That means something may have failed because you won’t see anybody there at the gate. But we are yet to resolve as to who should deploy the technology to handle the clearance at the ports.
We are debating as to whether the Federal Government should set up a company to handle it or we concession it to a private company, we are yet to decide on that. The acting President is chairing that committee. But we are bringing in a private sector company to deal with the issues of gate and parking so we won’t be seeing those trucks on the road again.
All these take time. Being a governor is wonderful. If it were when I was a governor, if a private sector comes with his money to invest, I just give the go ahead but here; there are a lot of tedious and rigorous processes to follow.