The Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) on Thursday, August 17, 2023, applauded President Bola Tinubu for the creation of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy and appointment of a 41-year-old Olubunmi Tunji-Ojo, as the Minister.
The NAMM President, Capt. Tajudeen Alao, who made the commendation in an interview in Lagos, said: “I congratulate President Bola Tinubu for listening to us and creating this maritime ministry from lands and railways, where the attention and focus has been.”
Alao, however, described the ministry as a new terrain for the minister with a background in engineering.
He said the minister came in at the time when stakeholders were desirous of harnessing the potential of maritime industry which served as the second revenue contributor to the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
“Maritime is different from oil and gas, it is services and value added to anything we do and that is why the importance of maritime cannot be over-emphasised.
“For him to succeed, he needs to meet all stakeholders individually not together, the shipping agencies, terminal operators, professionals like the master mariner marine engineers, dry dock owners, and even those that engage in human transport within the waters.
“This is to enable him know the challenges of these groups. Already, people have been suffering for years, the industry is not performing and the multiplier effect spreads so wide.
“The young people are discouraged because they do not see the potential and feel the growth, so they go to other fields like information technology,” he said.
Alao said the minister needs to know the players in the industry and their challenges to succeed in his new appointment.
“In the front burner for him should be access road to the ports, evacuation of goods, security within the port corridors from Port Harcourt to Calabar and to Lagos is very important; on security of the waterways, we are winning.
“We need intervention fund for the players within the industry in order to ease the financial pressure from the bank loans collected.
“Some people have taken loan and are not able to redeem them, struggling for the payment and if he comes to talk down on them, they will be mad because their survival is at stake. He has to recognise these basic things and their pains,” he said.
Alao said the minister needed special assistants in different areas to feel the pain and get the right information of what the industry was all about to be able to harness it.
He said maritime was guided by international conventions, and so the minister needed to understand every conventions and identify the players who were supposed to execute the act.
“It’s very important so that when he is talking, he talks with the right terms, because the industry has technical language and terrain,” he said.
Alao urged Tinubu to appoint a special assistant on maritime so that the person could aid the minister.
“We did not get the square peg in square hole that we sought for, but when it comes to agencies, we find out that in a population of 200 millon, how many people has that kind of expertise.
“It is a minus but the agency should be headed by people with technical background in their area so that they will be able to direct the minister in the right path.
“Where the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is talking, he is doing so with experience spanned over 20 years and they are bound to listen to him because he knows the terrain.
“The executive directors that should be in the Nigerian Ports Authority, the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and NIMASA should also have the expertise.
“The minister should have geographical spread so that stakeholders can have access to the people, this is in our constitution, federal character and others.
“It’s a political appointment, yes, but we pray that doors are not shut on the people,” he added.
Tunji-Ojo is among the 48 newly appointed minister by President Tinubu.
By Chiazo Ogbolu