Women Renew Battle For Fair Representation In Transportation Ministry

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President Muhammadu Buhari and who will occupy the position of Transportation Minister, are likely to receive intense heat from all fronts by women who are fighting to remedy their low involvement in the transport and logistics sectors of Nigeria’s economy.

The women struggle has been on since 2014, and is likely to gain a new momentum as the women are determined to correct the imbalance in the sector.

At the moment, the Secretary-General, Abuja Memorandum of Understanding on Port State Control for West and Central Africa, Mrs. Mfon Ekong Usoro, is pressing for a 35 per cent representation of women in the Federal Ministry of Transportation.

The women war cry is ringing out as the country’s national oil corporation is cornering juicy crude lifting deals. By what is in the pipeline, no less than 80 percent of the contracts for the lifting of crude oil will now be handled by a subsidiary of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).

NNPC Trading Limited, the subsidiary, is presently one of the 39 local and foreign firms engaged in the crude lifting deals.

Managing Director of NNPC Trading Limited, Ibrahim Waya, made this known in the latest edition of the quarterly in-house journal of the state oil corporation.

Currently, the trading company handles 40 per cent of the country’s oil lifting contracts. While adding that the target of the firm ultimately was to handle the entire contracts, Waya said ‘’the current management of the NNPC under the watch of Dr. Maikanti Baru is giving us every support to jack up our operation from 10 per cent to 40 per cent.

‘’The GMD told us that what he wants to achieve for trading is that by the end of 2018, he wants the NNPC Trading to have 80 per cent in terms of Nigeria’s crude oil, and also conversely by the end of 2018, we want to do every form of import of products, if need be, to augment the local production of products through the NNPC Trading.’’

This past January, the Federal Government had awarded 12 months’ crude lifting contracts for about 1.31 million barrels per day to 39 companies.

In the mean time, the Nigerian women are now seeing the Amaechi portfolio as a juicy ministry, with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), and the Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) all under the purview of the ministry.

That is not all. The others are the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology (NITT), Zaria, Kaduna State and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, in Akwa Ibom State.

In a paper titled, Sustainable Participation of Women in Logistics and Transport Industry, Usoro argued that if women have 35 percent of the positions in the parastatals under the supervision of the transportation ministry, it will go a long way to redress the gender imbalance in the transport and logistics sectors of the economy.

In the paper which was delivered at the second Women in Logistics and Trade in Nigeria (WILAT) Day Conference 2014 in Lagos, Usoro noted that there are barriers to the career progression of women in the two critical sectors.

The Abuja MoU Secretary General who was the first female to head any of the parasatals in the federal ministry expressed dismay that women thin out at the top managerial level in the two critical sectors.

According to her, ‘’the Federal Government under former President Goodluck Jonathan introduced a policy of 35 percent representation of women in appointive positions. The Federal Executive Council (FEC) reflects correct implementation of the policy. However, the implementation of the policy has not trickled down to government parastatals and agencies.

‘’It is the work of women advocacy groups like WILAT to encourage and urge the Minister of Transportation to appoint capable women into boards, executive management and directorship and as CEOs of the agencies under the ministry in the 35 percent proportion. It is no longer acceptable not to have women sit with men in decision making roles.

While giving an insight into why many women are disadvantaged in the two sectors, she said the number of women in management positions in the maritime agencies was symptomatic of the industry generally and permeates both the public and private sector.

Attributing this to what she called “managerial glass ceiling”, Usoro who was the pioneer Director General of NIMASA explained it was the invisible barrier which women come into contact with when climbing up the corporate ladder.

According to her, it is a barrier so subtle that the uninitiated would vouch that the system is transparent, but yet so strong that it prevents women from moving up in the management hierarchy. Glass ceilings are subtle, indirect obstacles resulting from labelling and stereotyping that place stumbling blocks in the career paths of many women.

It is a phenomenon of women’s careers being stuck at middle management levels.

Usoro called for a multi-thronged strategy for a sustainable elimination of what she called ‘’entrenched structural and cultural obstacles’’ to our growth path.

‘’The primary drivers for change must be women acting as a group and by individual efforts to secure enduring and positive change. The current climate is well disposed to conversations on gender parity in every sphere of our society and we must exploit it and create new opportunities. Change must be driven at governmental, institutional and personal levels’’, she added.

Activists say a conscious inclusion of women in training and employment programmes with a particular focus on leadership will improve understanding of gender issues and concerns and allow for appropriate articulation of gender empowerment strategies in policies and projects in all transport sub-sectors.

They are arguing that this will benefit the institutions involved and create a more balanced work environment, pointing out that it is important to build strong female partnerships in various countries in Africa.

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