Text of the Press Briefing by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi on Wednesday December 23rd, 2015

Rotimi Amaechi

Protocol,

We are delighted to welcome you to this first interaction with our media stakeholders in the transportation sector. We are certain this would be the first of many such interactions in the light of President Buhari administration’s commitment to accountability and open government. Since we assumed office as Ministers, I and my colleague – the Honourable Minster of State for Aviation have received briefs from different departments and agencies of the ministry and have also embarked on a fact – finding tour. These briefings and tour have enabled us to firm our workplan and policy direction in line with the determination of this administration to lay solid foundation, and improve critical infrastructure that will reflect on our economy.

The transportation sector holds the key to any economy and forms the basis of all socio-economic interactions. Like many other countries, Nigeria suffers the bane of inadequate transportation but perhaps worse than other countries. Nigeria’s huge population puts enormous pressure on a very poor transport infrastructure that bedevils the nation.

The problems of Nigerian transport system include bad roads, inadequate fleet of busses and trucks; irregular and inadequate trains and airplanes services and congested ports. In line with these, are physical problems such as the dearth of suitably trained transport managers and planners, capital restructuring bottlenecks, serious issues of institutional reforms and ineffective traffic regulations.

The contribution of the transport sector to the Gross National Product is an unacceptable 1.41%. For a sector that plays a major role in the nation’s development, there is an urgent need to exploit the opportunities that abound within the sector to improve its contribution to the national economy.

Countries like South Korea and Singapore have built their economies around a vibrant transportation sector. Although Nigeria is blessed with multiple modes of transportation that is the envy of many, these potentials have largely remained untapped. Our air transport and railways sub-sectors hold the key to unlocking the vast potentials in our cities and rural areas.

The Buhari administration is determined to fully exploit the potentials in the transportation sector. As a first step, the government will pursue the enactment of legislation that will open up the sector to new investments that will lead to economic prosperity. Among the bills that is ready for legislative action is the National Transport Commission Bill – an act to provide for the establishment of a National Transport Commission as an independent multi-modal economic regulator and other related matters. This bill among others have been approved by the Federal Executive Council in March 2014.

RAILWAYS

This sub sector has suffered significant neglect in the past though it is the most effective and cheapest mode of mass transportation for both passengers and freight. During the hey days of Nigerian Railway Corporation, railway was the fastest means of transporting mass freight between different regions of the nation thus reducing pressure on road usage; these included petroleum
and agricultural products.

The current state of the railway is an indication of the serious neglect of this important sub-sector occasioned by poor policy initiation and implementation. This has led to the proliferation of privately owned and operated road haulage services resulting in unregulated and chaotic situation on the nations roads. Nigerian Railway Corporation has been effectively reduced to uneconomically unviable venture dependent on government subvention without any return on the huge investments.

The present administration is determined to revamp the railway sector with a view to enhancing national integration by encouraging mass transit of passengers and goods between and across the geographical regions of the country. The immediate impact will be the reduction of haulage of heavy cargoes by roads thus reducing road damage and increasing the life span of roads.

The movement of petroleum products by rail will be re-introduced in 2016. As you are aware, we have commenced and almost completed the narrow gauge rehabilitation which will be retained for the movement of cargoes. At the same time massive investments into the standard gauge to link most parts of the country with faster trains for passenger movements has begun. In2016, we hope to complete work on the Abuja-Kaduna railway lines as Mr. President is highly committed to it. Work will start in earnest on the standard gauge on the following routes:

1. Calabar-Lagos line which will transverse the following towns and cities. Obudu Cattle Ranch-Calabar-Uyo-Aba-PHYenagoa-Otuoke-Yenagoa-Ughelli-Sapele-Benin-Agbor-Asaba-Onitsha-Benin-Ijebu Ode-Ore-Sagamu-Lagos Seaports.

2. Lagos-Kano. Lagos-Ibadan-Ilorin-Minna-Kaduna- Kano. The construction of new lines and rehabilitation of old railway lines will generate over 250,000 direct jobs and more indirect jobs while having multi-pliers effect on economic activities. With the resuscitation of commercial traffic from Port Harcourt to Aba amongst others, we have begun the revitalization of this key sub-sector of the Nigerian economy.

MARITIME

The maritime sector globally is largely private sector driven with governments providing the appropriate policy and regulatory framework to improve investments and safeguard the nation’s waterways. In Nigeria, the potentials in the maritime sector remains largely untapped. This sector’s contribution to the nations GDP is appreciable. Government will implement policies that encourage private sector participation and investments towards diversification and growth of the nations economy.

Government will streamline all the agencies in the maritime sector for a more effective and efficient performance to meet the expectations of all stakeholders. For example is attempt to improve the clearance of good at the reports within 48hours time period.

AVIATION

The aviation industry in Nigeria has not been without its peculiar problems in the recent past which includes but not limited to weak airlines and decaying infrastructure. The ministry of transportation in collaboration with relevant parastatals and agencies have drawn up short term plans that are currently being implemented of which the traveling public will take notice of the improvements in the not distant future. These plans include the expeditious completion of on going airports remodeling projects at Lagos, Abuja, Kano and Port Harcourt and the decongestion of airports access roads among several others. The new terminal in Lagos will generate additional 15 million passengers annually making a total of 30 million passengers yearly nationwide. The medium and long term plans will require significant investments to upgrade and expand infrastructures to meet current and future requirements.

As a result of limited resources for capital projects development, government is exploring the possibility of private sector participation to towards the realization of the industries’ potentials.

The ministerial committee on the National Airline has submitted its report the President which the government is studying carefully and will announce its decision in due course.

In June of this year, Nigeria scored 96.45% during the International Civil Aviation Security Audit. Despite this feat, the nation can ill afford to let its guards down considering recent events in the international scene where passenger airplanes have been blown out of the skies. Subsequently in accordance with the Nigerian Civil Aviation Security Program (NCASP) and International Aviation Organization (ICAO) annex 17, the Federal Government is looking to overhaul and streamline the security
apparatus at the nations airports for a seamless and more effective security surveillance and enforcement. This will also improve facilitation and passenger experience.. The use of appropriate technology and customized training for security personnel will play a major role in this process. The purpose of all these measures is to work smarter in achieving stated goals and targets.

With regards to the operators and service providers, they must operate within the ambit of Nigerian Civil Aviation Regulations and International Civil Aviation Organization Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPS) or face the full wrath of the law and extant regulations. This has become necessary as we cannot afford any mishap. Ladies and gentlemen, safety and security is non negotiable.

CONCLUSION

Efforts will be re-doubled towards the recovery of debts owed to the ministry and all its parastatals and agencies to mitigate the effects of dwindling resources. The ministry through its regulatory agencies will ensure strict compliance with all laws and regulations. In this regard there will no sacred cows. All stakeholders in the transportation sector are encouraged to join hands with the government towards building a virile, vibrant and profitable industry.

Your excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, having toured the various parastatals and agencies; the enormity of the tasks ahead has become much clearer.

The government of President Muhammadu Buhari is in the process of developing a national transportation master – plan that will be implemented as a fulfilment one of his campaign promises
to diversify the national economy while improving non oil sector
revenues. While reducing dependence on oil revenues it will also develop the rural economy, reduce unemployment and urban drift.

We understand and appreciate the issues clearly and are committed to ensuring the goals and targets of the President Muhammadu Buhari’s government in the transportation sector are met in earnest for the benefits of our people and the nation.

I thank you for listening, God bless you all and the Federal Republic of Nigeria!

RT Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, CON
Honourable Minister of Transportation
December 23, 2015.

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