By Frank Kintum
For about five eventful and memorable years, Mrs Anthonia Ekpa, PhD, held sway in the federal ministry of Transport as the Director in charge of Road Transport and Mass Transit Administration.
From 2015 to 2020, she was able to breathe life to the hitherto passive Road Transport and Mass Transit Administration activities which impact was before then, hardly noticed as it was just a division of the archaic Department of Rail & Mass Transit (R&MT).
With two divisions-namely Road Transport Administration and Mass Transit Administration, the department is vested with the overall responsibility of policy formulation and administration for road transport and mass transit operation in the country.
And when we remember that about 90% of transportation in Nigeria is made by road, one can only imagine the enormity of responsibilities this department is saddled with.
Under her watch as a Director, the department was able to achieve a whole lot not only within the country but at international levels, ensuring that Nigeria was not left out from its due. Some of these achievements are highlighted below.
The department was key in ensuring that Nigeria was well placed in the Inter-State Road Transit (ISRT) scheme promoted by the Economic Community of West Africa.
The Inter-State Road Transit (ISRT) Scheme was established sequel to the decision of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government as a guarantee mechanism for Inter-State Road Transit of goods operations. It is designed to promote the free flow of goods among member states; free of duties; taxes and restrictions while in transit.
Also worthy of note is the National Road Transport and Transit Facilitation Committee (NRT&TFC) under ECOWAS. This body has the primary responsibility of promoting the smooth movement of goods and persons as well as facilitating trade and transport through the removal of physical and non-physical barriers.
Federal Ministry of Transport Department of Road Transport and Mass Transit Administration was able to coordinate two Road Corridor Monitoring exercises using the ECOWAS monitoring format to determine the conditions of the trade corridors in Nigeria and make recommendations to relevant agencies for implementation.
Though the Protocol for the National Freight Offices was signed in 1982 to foster operational points for trade, the department, under the supervision of Dr Ekpa, contributed its own quarter to sustain the implementation of the seven (Saki, Oyo State; Idiroko, Ogun State; Illela, Sokoto State; Jibiya, Katsina State; Kamba, Kebbi State; and Gambouru- Ngala, Borno State) approved locations. The NFO at Illela has been completed while the Jibiya and Idiroko National Freight Offices have reached advance stages of completion.
Nigeria, being a major economic player in the West African sub-region, has been a major promoter of the Abidjan-Lagos-Corridor Organisation (ALCO), and the federal ministry of Transport, through the Department of Road Transport and Mass Transit Administration, has sustained the momentum.
Importantly, Nigeria actually holds two positions in ALCO Board as the country Chairs and also participates as a Member. The Ministry, which is represented at the ALCO Governing Board by the Director, Road Transport & Mass Transit Administration (RT&MTA), has shown a lot of commitment to the organisation.
Dr. Ekpa has also been able to sustain the ideals of the Annual Stakeholders Conference which is aimed at regulating the sector and bring all the Key Stakeholders under a platform to discuss relevant issues militating against service delivery in the sector. The conversation which is in its third year has brought about a positive impact in the Sector.
She also ensured that the department initiated developmental policies for the road sub-sector such as Mass Transit Policy, non-motorised transport, Urban Transport Mobility, Cycling Policy, Electric mobility Policy etc.
It is also to the credit of Dr. Anthonia Ekpa that the Department chairs the Steering Committee comprising the Project Delivery Team among others, geared towards the implementation of the much-awaited Truck Transit Park projects, a Public-Private Partnership Project designed and aimed at providing temporary public rest areas located off a major corridor or Highway for Truck drivers.
The Ministry through the Department of Road Transport and Mass Transit Administration (RT&MTA) is also a critical stakeholder in the implementation of the five pillars of the UN Decade of Action which are: Road safety management, Safer roads and mobility, Safer Vehicles, Safer road users, Post-crash response. It is aimed at stabilizing and reducing’ global road traffic fatalities by 2020.
When two years ago, the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, being a Member of the board of United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR), hosted the 2018 UNITAR BOT meeting at the Hilton Transcorp Hotel, Abuja, the department played key roles in ensuring a successful event.
On climate change-related issues, the department has for years, championed on behalf of the ministry, the Green Bond: Solar Powered Tricycle and Amphibious Vehicle, as well as the Coordination of the Implementation of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition National Action Plan to reduce Short-Lived Climate pollutants in the country.
Other key achievements are the smooth international collaborations on Sub-Sahara Africa Transport Policy Program (SSATP) promoted by the World bank; the Economic and Commercial Cooperation of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (COMCEC) and the Eldomark (Osuigo) Haulage and Remittances Project
It is also to the credit of the department that it was able to initiate the development of the Road Transport Operators’ Manual, a product of collaborative efforts with all the relevant stakeholders in the sector that is expected to bring sanity to the road sector operations; as wells as create a platform for Transport Commissioners Forum.
L-R: Amb. (Dr) Anthonia Ekpa, His Excellency Amb. Geoffrey J. K. Onyeama and His Excellency Amb. Zubairu Dada- Permanent Secretary, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of State, Foreign Affairs respectively
Perhaps, one will not be surprised that Dr. Anthonia Ekpa was able to achieve a lot for the transport ministry during her stay, because her intimidating curriculum vitae (training, degrees, experience) places her on the pedestal of high-level achievers who are noted not only within Nigeria but internationally.
Prior to joining the ministry of transport, she had served as an academic in the University of Calabar; director special duties, federal ministry of Power; Director/Head of Department, Planning Research and Statistics, Federal Ministry of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs; and Director, Monitoring and Evaluation, Federal Ministry of Water Resources.
She was also Deputy Director Communications, Bureau of Public Service Reforms, (The Presidency); Assistant Director Human Resource Management (HRM) Federal Character Commission etc.
She has consistently impacted positively to the country in the various positions held, and has proven over the years to be a true motivator, team worker, communicator per excellence and an incorruptible public officer.
An author, she holds Bachelor degree in English and Literary Studies from the University of Calabar; and MA and MSc from the University of Ibadan and the University of Birmingham, England –United Kingdom respectively. She also has in her kitty a PhD in English language (specialization in Sociolinguistics, Communication management, Stylistics, Discourse Analysis and Gender/Women Studies) from the University of Ibadan.
A Chevening Scholar, Dr. Ekpa has represented Nigeria in so many international engagements and she is resuming as Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs with a sustained international network and unstained record.