By Chiazo Ogbolu
Sen. Gbemisola Saraki, Minister of State for Transportation, has called for Public, Private Partnership (PPP) to create an enabling environment for the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) to thrive.
Saraki made the call at the Ministerial Consultative Meeting with the media on Friday in Lagos.
Saraki said her visit to Lagos was to take stock of the state of the two ports in Lagos, which were in dire need of repairs.
“For the country to reap from AfCFTA, we need to make the ports more competitive. We know that the largest number of cargoes come to Nigeria, we need to take advantage of that.
“The state of the ports in Lagos made my move imperative, and the ministry seeks to drive a closer relation and synergy between the private and public sectors in ensuring an enabling environment exists in which business can thrive.
“Especially for AfCFTA, being the champion in the transportation sector, it was critical for me to come to know where we are in our preparedness compared to our neighbouring countries,” she said.
Saraki noted that the blue economy at times sounded like a puzzle but it could create a lot of jobs in the maritime sector, adding that if the country didn’t have oil, maritime would be the next biggest sector of the economy.
“We need to take advantage of what God has given to us. We have a large young population and wealth and there are many ways we can engage our youths in employment in the sector.
“The floating dockyard is an area that can provide jobs for the youth as it has been estimated to provide up to 20,000 jobs and we have gone to the Naval Dockyard to see how best we can put it to use.
“Government has this programme of bringing Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years and we need to have the maritime industry contributing to that, the floating dockyard will see to that contribution.
“I assure you that before the end of this administration, we will have the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), which has gone up to 350 million dollars, and also the National Transport Policy,” she said.
She said it was disheartening to see that nothing had changed as regards the CVFF, stating that it had to be disbursed, especially with the commencement of AfCFTA as the country needed vessels to trade.
On the connection of the lekki Seaport, she said the port must be connected to the rail as the authorities had taken congnisance of evacuation of cargoes when establishing the port.