BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
Barely 24 hours after the National Assembly (NASS) reportedly flayed the federal ministry of transportation for its inability to achieve the expected budgetary performances in the past three years, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo yesterday rated President Muhammadu Buhari high on his “Strategic interventions” to grow the transportation sector.
The minister who was speaking while presenting the ministry’s scorecard for the eight years duration of President Buhari’s government, 2015 to date at the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture Press Centre, Radio House, Abuja, attributed much of the economic gains to the president’s interventions.
It is instructive to note that Sambo said the president accorded the transport economy huge attention, stressing the transport sector ranked ‘fourth of the nine priority areas of his administration.’
The transportation minister listed the priority areas to include: “wealth creation, improving access to agricultural production centres and markets, movement of raw materials and distribution of finished products. Other areas are; facilitating tourism as well as domestic and international trade, sustainability of mining and the extractive industry as well as being a major support base in contributing to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the Nation.
“To underpin the critical role of transportation, the administration has made transportation infrastructure a priority both in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020) and the National Development Plan (NDP 2021-2025),” he said.
Sambo who also said that Buhari administration has provided a safe and secure maritime borders to prevent illegal activities on Nigeria’s waterways, apparently did so in clear disregard to the statistics of rising incidences of smuggling and economic theft, official and unofficial, including crude and fishing, rated as a major weak point in governance in the past ten years.
He said, “The ministry in its versatile and intermodal mandate has taken charge of the safety and security of the nation’s international waters, inland waterways and railway corridors in collaboration with a wide range of stakeholders.
“Some of the implemented interventions include the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure which is the Deep Blue Project.
Two days before, by his own admission, Sambo in a statement said the parliament had urged the executive arm of government to redouble its effort at ensuring that approved budgets get the right implementation that will translate into productive economic benefits, cost efficiencies and service delivery.
The Chairman, National Assembly Committee on Land and Marine, Sen. Danjuma Goje had expressed dismay that the transportation budget is not being implemented within the budget year despite early approval by the National Assembly.
His words: “You see the National Assembly has been able to achieve approval of the budgets within the budget circle; for three years, we have been able to approve these budgets by the end of December. But surprisingly, the implementation of the budget does not Correspond with the urgency to which we attach in approving these budgets”, he said.
While assuring that the Committees will support the minister and the agencies under him to succeed, Goje reportedly enjoined the executive and drivers of the sector to see that its budget are implemented faithfully “to deliver government intentions and democracy dividends to Nigerians.”
The transportation minister highlighted other critical indices of development to match his report sheet, which he said includes the passage Of The Suppression Of Piracy And Other Maritime Offenses (SPOMO) Act, 2019 Into Law.
.”To underpin the critical role of transportation, the administration has made transportation infrastructure a priority both in its Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP 2017-2020) and the National Development Plan (NDP 2021-2025).
“The Deep Blue Project prevents illegal activities in Nigeria’s Maritime waters, thereby aiding regional security in the Gulf of Guinea and MOWCA jurisdictions.”
In addition he said the done well on railways infrastructure and railway safety and security.
“Within the period under review, the moribund commercial railway services in Nigeria were resuscitated by the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari as locomotives and coaches were procured and others refurbished.
“Safety and security are further enhanced through the provision of the latest Signal Communication Equipment and Solutions.
“This includes strengthening of the Nigerian Railway Police Command through an increase in numbers and specialized training and the provision of adequate logistics assets for high mobility and technology-based security architecture,” he said.
Speaking on Buhari’s scorecard in the areas of ports infrastructure enhancement and seaports development, the Lekki Deep Sea Port and the Badagry Deep Sea Port , he said: “The existing Seaports are being maintained in conformity with IMO standards and conventions.”
Sambo also commended the president for signing treaties and agreements believed to have facilitated smooth movement of goods and persons, as well as facilitating trade and transport through the removal of physical and non-physical barriers among member states.
On local capacity building, Sambo said PMB led administration has sustained development of requisite manpower for the sector through the Institute of Transport Technology and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria; while on job creation, he said “the Programmes, Projects, Initiatives and Interventions carried out within the period in focus created massive direct skilled and unskilled jobs and millions of indirect jobs in the various subsectors supervised by the Ministry.”
The minister informed that a sustainability plan is also in the pipeline with best practices in the sector for massive infrastructure development.
“The President Muhammadu Buhari-led Administration has made giant strides in bridging the infrastructural deficit in the transportation sector. This includes the railway modernization programme, the deep sea ports development programme, the inland dry port initiative, job creation, introduction of favourable policies to mention but a few.”
While admitting that the “sector is far from perfect”, Sambo affirmed that “the interventions on ground will serve as a veritable template for the incoming administration to build upon.”
In a related development, the transportation minister said that the Abuja-Kaduna train service which was halted due to the March 28, 2022 terrorist attack would be reopened for patronage by the general public before the end of this month.
The Minister stated this earlier today at the second edition of the “PMB Administration Scorecard 2015-2023 Series while presenting the Ministerial Scorecard and that of agencies under his supervision for the periods 2015-2023.
“The Abuja-Kaduna mishap was a very sad one and by the grace of God, we shall not witness such again. Not only because we have committed it to prayer but deliberate steps have been taken, lessons have been learned and these lessons would be put to use. What are these lessons: safety and security, surveillance, security 24/7, 7 days a week, 12 months a year, all round the clock”, Mu’azu assured
On modernization plan of the railway he said the Warri – Itakpe rail line was not meant to terminate at Itakpe but Abuja, noting however that is was discovered that the concessionaire that was billed to handle it lacked capacity after approval had been given by the Federal Executive Council, FEC. The minister did not say what happened to those who facilitated the bid process and subsequent FEC approval.
He, however assured that the Ministry is currently putting together a presentation to the FEC on the execution of the corridor on the basis of “Engineering, Procurement, Construction plus Finance plan” , adding that under the railway modernization plan all state capitals across the country will be linked by railway.