Transport and Maritime Appointments: When Will the South-west be Considered?

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Olusegun George

If there is one area the government of President Mohammadu Buhari has been criticised, it is in the area of appointments which many people think, either rightly or wrongly, to be unfairly tilted in favour of the North and Muslims. Many have listed appointments, especially in the security sector as well as the economic sector, which have favoured the North, especially the North-east, since the inception of this government. They usually point to such appointments like that of the director-general of the Department of State Security, DSS, that of the chief of army staff as well as that of the National Security Adviser, NSA. Now, are these appointments skewed, truly, in favour of the North-east? May be. But that is as far as the argument goes because that is equally neither here nor there. The argument has been that each geo-political zone in the country has enough and capable hands that could be called upon to serve there fatherland. Perhaps, the North-east is having preponderance in the estimation of the president.

However, there are particular areas which many are of the opinion that a particular zone, the South-west, has not had a fair deal as far as appointments are concerned. And those sectors are the transport sector and the maritime sector. Strategically, these are sectors which have the bulk of the operations in the South-west, Lagos to be precise. But the zone, either by accident or design, has not been fairly represented in the management of these critical sectors in terms of appointments. Another sector that could be pointed to is the financial sector. For instance, the sector has its major operations in Lagos but a parastatal like the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC, which regulates the sector, does not have a single person in its management from the South-west. And when we are talking of management staff, we are talking of executive directors that draw salaries every month. What the zone has been able to have in the last ten years were probably commissioners who only earn sitting allowances.

That is a digression, anyway. The crux of this article is the composition of the management of the transport and maritime sectors. Will the South-west ever get a fair deal as far as these sectors are concerned? Perhaps, someone close to the top echelons of power might have to answer that question. Let it be known that the aim of this article is not to whip up any ethnic sentiment or question the integrity, either professional or personal, of those who have been appointed to these positions. It is just to highlight the need for those in authority to balance the act and ensure that the zone has a fair deal in the running of these sectors.

Let us look at the Shippers’ Council. They are the body responsible for fixing freight rates. That is not all. Part of their roles is also to help bring down our freight rates to compete with other ports. It is a known fact that ports of neighbouring countries like Togo and Benin Republic are reaping billions of dollars off Nigeria due to the fact that many Nigerians prefer to route their import, especially cars, through these ports. Government has also made them the economic regulator of the maritime sector.

The current executive secretary of the Council, Freeborn Okhiria, was acting for one year and was made substantive in 2013 and has spent four years. The implication of this is that the position if up for ‘grabs’. Ironically, the former boss there was one Engr. Sijuade, who was relieved of his position. To have a better appreciation of how the South-west has not been represented, perhaps, it is important to look at these positions and those manning them. This becomes even instructive because the head of NIMASA, Peterside, is from Rivers State, just like Okhiria.

The Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, is headed by Hadiza Bala Usman from Kano State and none of the executive directors is from the South-west. Mohammed Bello is the Executive Director for finance while Prof. Idris Abubakar is the Executive Director in charge engineering and Dr. Sekonte Davies is the Executive Director for marine operations.

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Security Agency, NIMASA, is headed by the former All Progressives Congress, APC, governorship in Rivers State, Dakuku Peterside, while the Nigerian Inland Waterways, NIWA, Boss Mustapha, a northerner and for the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, it is Hassan Bello. The Nigerian Maritime Academy, NMA, in Oron, used to have Joshua Okpo who died December 8, 2015. The new Rector is Anthony Anayo Ishiodu. For the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria, FAAN, is headed by Engr. Saleh Dunoma, another northerner while the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority, NCAA, is headed by Captain Mukhtar Usman, another northerner.

In all these positions, none is headed by a South-westerner and these are agencies whose operations are being carried out majorly in the zone. Some concerned leaders of thought had met a national leader from the zone recently who seems to have the ears of those in authority. Their concern was that the economic opportunities of having some indigenes of the zone in controlling positions in any of these places cannot be over-emphasised. The leader was said to have listened to them and has reported made contacts with the minister of transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi. Now, the onus is on the minister, known for his belief that the zone contributed immensely to the emergence of the president and should be adequately represented in the government. More so, these positions are not subject to Senate approval. They are filled via presidential fiat.

Will Amaechi right these wrongs? History is watching and Nigerians are waiting.

–George wrote in from Lagos