With the maritime industry still in the middle of wholesale reforms, operators are seeking the appointment of a knowledgeable technocrat to head the ministry of transport.
The reformÂ in terminal operations, liberalisation of mangement of ports and issues relating to streamlining ofÂ cargo delivery time, they said, make it imperative that somebody acquainted with the dynamics in the maritime industry be appointed as the next minister of transport.
â€œThe industry needs an eligible man that by training and qualification knows the terrain and appreciates the enormity of challenges confronting the shipping industry,â€ AbdulwaheedÂ Kareem, chairman of the Port Consultative Council (PCC), said. â€œThe industry is vast and requires a man who will not have to learn the rope but understands the rope climbing tactics already,â€ .
Noting that Acting President Goodluck Jonathan is in aÂ race against time with barely 14 months to May 2011, Kareem said that for the economy and the maritime industry to grow, â€œa man who knows the dynamics, contending issues and challenges of maritime and help the acting president complete the race should head the transport ministry.â€
He called on Jonathan to consider the crop of people actively engaged in the various facets of shipping operations. â€œBut if the government must overlook the present crop ofÂ practitioners, they should pick somebody with adequate training to head the transport ministry,â€ .
Similarly, KunleÂ Folarin, chairman, Seafarers Welfare Board, said rail modernisation, dredging of River Niger and the countryâ€™s obligations to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) are at crucial stages and may be scuttled by the appointment of somebody alien to the projects.
Governmentâ€™s decision should be guided by experience, expertise and commitment of the person, he said, adding that â€œdue to the strategic nature of the projects that are pivotal to improving the transport sector, governmentâ€™s choice of a minister of transport should go beyond political and party considerations.â€
Stating that there are capable hands among the crop of practitioners, he suggested that any of the accomplished master mariners, technocrats and shipping operators could be appointed to head the ministry.
â€œWe need somebody who can get something done within a short time left for the Jonathan administration. The maritime industry is so peculiar that there is no room for abandoned projects,â€ Folarin who is also a member ofÂ PCC said.
Also calling for the appointment of a professional, Olayiwola Shittu, chairman of the publicity committee of the Council for the Registration of Freight Forwarders (CRFF), said the transport ministry should be given its rightful status as one that demands specialised knowledge.
â€œThe industry is the backbone of the economy. More than 90 per cent of what we consume in the country is shipped in. The challenges are enormous and not something that we can afford to get somebody who will spend almost one year trying to understand the industry he should be making policies on.
â€œWe can not be saddled with people who will come to learn on the job. There is no time for learning any longer,â€Â ShittuÂ said.