Gbemi Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation
Stakeholders in the transportation sector have unanimously called on President Muhammadu Buhari to confirm the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, as the substantive Minister of Transportation.
The stakeholders made the call in Lagos last week after the Minister’s tour of the Ebute Meta railway station, Apapa port, Tin Can Island port and NIMASA Deep Blue project. She also held a series of town hall meetings with the chief executives of shipping lines, terminal operators, indigenous ship owners, importers, freight forwarders, lawyers, truck operators, maritime workers union, and journalists.
Saraki assumed headship of the Federal Ministry of Transportation on May 16 after the resignation of the substantive Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, to contest the presidential primary election of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Speaking when the Minister held an interactive session with ship owners on Thursday, the Founding President, Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Chief Isaac Jolapamo, said Saraki has “deep knowledge of the industry” and “knows what to do” to reposition the transport sector.
“She is not a green horn. She knows what to do. If indeed government wants to develop the maritime industry, government knows and understands that she has the wherewithal and the experience.
“Having come from the lawmaking side of the maritime industry to the executive side, she can do it better unlike what we experienced in the past,” Chief Jolapamo said.
Also speaking, the President, Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung, said the Minister’s visit to the ports and weeklong engagement with stakeholders “is a paradigm shift” that will accelerate development of the transport sector.
He said, “This is something which almost everybody has been looking for. The maritime industry is a very vast industry. The ocean economy is much, so also the challenges associated with it.
“For you to be able to come to a Ministry like this, you must have a very broad overview to be able to attend to the issue. I think she has all what it takes.”
The President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Captain Tajudeen Alao, also noted that the Minister “has done wonderfully well” since she took charge of the transportation ministry on May 16.
“To be sincere with you, the Minister has done wonderfully well because going on the water, coming by rail to Apapa, physically seeing the situation on ground, speaks volume more than anything anybody can explain.
“This woman has been very thorough and detailed in addressing all the issues. She knows her onions and she is on the top of the situation. She understands everything discussed in the meeting.
Taking one week off her schedule to come and meet the stakeholders; this is what we have been advocating for long.
It is our wish that she is made the substantive Minister of Transportation.
“As you can see, no protocol, no funfair.
She is meeting us and solutions are being proffered in this hall. What else do we want? People are even sending texts to her phone directly and she has been responding,” Alao noted.
Speaking during the Minister’s interactive session with freight forwarders, importers and exporters on Wednesday, the Acting President, Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Kayode Farinto, said Saraki has shown clear understanding of the myriads of problems militating against the development of the transport sector, and competence to solve the problems.
Farinto, who is also a member of the Governing Board of the Council for the Regulations of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN), urged President Buhari to give Saraki the opportunity to pilot the affairs of the Federal Ministry of Transportation till the end of his administration.
Also speaking, the President, Women in Maritime Africa, Rollens Macfoy, said, “For us to achieve continuity, having her as the substantive Minister of Transportation is inevitable. Looking at what she has been able to do in the shortest time she assumed office shows she is ready for the job. I give my kudos to her.”
The President, Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI), Dr. Michael Olawale-Cole; President, Shipowners Forum, Mrs Margaret Onyema-Orakwusi, former Director-General, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, Mrs Ify Anazonwu-Akerele and representative of the Barge Operators Association of Nigeria (BOAN), Hajia Bola Muse, all joined their voices in commending Saraki for her deep knowledge and visible commitment to the development of the transport sector. They all pledged to support the Minister to reposition the sector for better productivity.