Olu Akinsoji’s thoughts on FG’s ban on barge operations along the Marina coastline

I am constrained to comment on the alleged decision and pronouncement of the Hon. Minister of Transport banning barges from operating on the marina waterways.

As a living fellow in my profession, former DG, Government Inspector of Ships and Nigerian APR @ IMO, I believe my comments may assist the authorities in taking decisions and making pronouncements that may affect our economy and portray our environment as not hostile to investment.

The situation in Lagos, both on waterways and port hinterland access roads is unimaginable. It is so bad that one will wonder whether there are authorities for the control of vessels/vehicles, the waterways/road traffic and receivers of the services being provided: reckless abandonment of unserviceable vessels, operating unkept/unseaworthy vessels, tying-up or anchoring unmanned vessels, all kinds of pollution etc, make the environment look undesirable. Undoubtedly, the situation must have been responsible for the minister’s reaction.

My experience tells me that no barge should operate on Nigerian waters without valid documents such as the safety certificate and trading license. These document are backed up by Nigerian laws, which also provide for the rights and privileges of the operators and owners of the vessels.

Some of the owners and operators desirous for successful business, operate within the ambit of the law, but a good number may not, for them, the law provides for punitive action by the appropriate enforcement authorities. Also, the laws provide enabling powers for the minister to make regulations and direct his agencies to ensure that the primary purpose of the law is sustainably achieved. In my humble opinion, the purpose is for the economic and social well-being of the concerned Nigerians and their partners.

General banning of operational barges and requesting them to re- apply for licencing in any waterways of Nigeria for even a moment by the authorities is a knee-jerk reaction. The Hon. Minister is a long-standing Minister who is not expected to make knee- jerk reaction. The present bad situation in that environment has built up over a period of time. A period long enough to put in place corrective action and control.

My humble advice is that all functional barges with valid certificates and licences should not be subjected to waste even one second of their trading time over this matter, such vessels may already be operating under difficult conditions. We need not make it anymore difficult for them.

I am proud to say that we have sufficient institutional structures in place, but they need to generate appropriate regulations and instruction for competent and accountable managers.

It is therefore suggested that we keep all the relevant agencies/entities informed of their specific responsibilities through regulations, guidelines and instructions. Functions of every agency, manager and senior officer concerning this matter should be clearly stated and he or she should be made accountable.

I want to believe that the intervention of the Hon. Minister and the State Governor will galvanise plans of specified responsibilities of the relevant entities with instructions for accountability. Sincerity of purpose should be a common factor amongst the agencies and relevant entities.

The honourable minister may wish to place himself in the position to identify who and what is responsible for the decay. We are capable of corrective actions to make our environment friendly and enjoy the serenity of our waterways, Channels and hinterland access roads to our ports.

Please accept the consideration of my humble comment.

Olu Akinsoji is a marine engineer of international recognition, a former DG, Government Inspector of Ships and Nigerian APR at the IMO.

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