…Says it’s an escape route from debt overhang
By Ray Ugochukwu
Experts in maritime and allied industries on Thursday in Lagos, pressed it on the President-elect, Asuwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to ensure the creation of a distinct ministry for maririme activities in the country.
They said this is the only way the country can extricate itself from the huge debt it has been entangled with for sometime now.
The experts took this stand at this year’s The Bullion Lecture organized by the Centre for Financial Journalism (CFJ), which held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, with the theme: “Banking on Blue Economy for Nigeria’s Economic Development”, which was delivered by the Director, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh.
Throwing the first salvo was a maritime lawyer, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), at the event where the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, was the Guest of Honour.
The former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), asserted that it was only the country’s Blue Economy that could rescue the nation from its huge debt overhang.
He said if a ministry soley devoted to maritime activities, like as was done to Aviation was created, a more focused attention would be given to the sector so that its full potentials could be fully exploited.
Anishere, Chairman of occasion
If this was done, he maintained, the worries on how to liquidate the huge debt of the country would no longer be there as the sector had the capacity to boost the nation’s economy greatly.
“I want the President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu or whoever that will emerge as President at the end of the day, to create a Ministry of Maritime as has been done with aviation. What’s the big deal about aviation that you cannot do the same in maritime?
“The new President is already having a huge debt hanging on his neck. The only way to easily get out of the mess is by focusing attention on the maritime sector. It’s the only sector presently that has the potentials to save this country from the mess.
“I thank the organisers of The Bullion Lecture for this timely lecture. I’m happy that the Presidential spokesperson, Femi Adesina, whether outgoing or not, is here so that at least this can form part of their handover note to the incoming administration”, Agbakoba said.
Jamoh, Guest Lecturer
The Chairman of the occasion, Mrs Jean Chiazor Anishere, SAN, concord with Agbakoba that the only way out of the huge debt besetting the country was to channel attention to the maritime sector.
“I totally agree with my father and senior colleague, Dr Agbakoba, that the only way out for Nigeria is to direct it’s attention to maritime. Creating a Ministry of Maritime will give more focus on the sector and going by the presentation of the NIMASA DG, we have a lot to gain if the sector is fully tapped”, she remarked.
Danbatta, Guest of Honour
Dr Mkgeorge Onyung, President, Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), in his contribution said one of the things God first created was the sea, adding this was not for nothing.
He said for the nation to fully benefit from it, ships should be provided for the multiplier effects to begin to take place.
Onyung said, “I’ve said it before that for us to tap the full potentials of the Blue Economy, there must be three things namely, ship, ship and ship”.
“This is why I’m happy that NIMASA is now ready to disburse the CVFF so that people can buy ships no matter the size. By this, you’ll see how shipping activities will grow in the country.
“And that’s why I keep telling them to stop talking about the failed Ship Building and Ship Acquisition Fund of 1996. You cannot say because a woman lost her child at birth and should not get pregnant again
Speaking on the lecture topic, the NIMASA Director General, Dr Jamoh, made it clear that Blue Economy was not a new phenomenon but one that had exited from creation. He however, blamed its non-recoginition by the country’s industry stakeholders on what he termed ‘seablindness’.
He defined Blue Economy from the World Bank’s perspective as “the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihood and jobs, while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem”.
According to him, the Blue Economy was hinged on five pillars of sustainability, promoting ocean resources, preservation of ecosystem, economic growth and improved livelihood and jobs.
Jamoh put the worth of the world’s Blue Economy at $24 trillion with Nigeria being the 7th largest in ocean resources potentials ahead of Brazil.
He also disclosed that Blue Economy would create 350 million jobs worldwide only linked to fisheries and wondered why Nigerians were not tapping into the homongous opportunity for the country’s development.
In his words, “Blue Economy is valued at $2.5 trillion per annum; 90 per cent of global trade volume is seaborne; 350 million jobs worldwide linked to fisheries; 34 per cent offshore crude production by aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector, providing 50 per cent of fish for humanity”.
Ray Echebiri, Chief Host of event
He stressed on Nigeria’s untapped maritime potentials, which he saw as the only avenue the country’s economy could be rescued and the nation’s huge debt overhang resolved.
“Nigeria is blessed with 850 kilometres (km) of coastline, 8,573 km of inland waterways, 200 Exclusive Economic Zone, twelve nautical miles territorial waters and six port complexies of Apapa, Tin Can, Onne, Port Harcourt, Warri and Calabar.
“In addition, Nigeria has 21 oil terminals and more than 10 jetties and 200 million production output. Twenty eight out of 36 states are accessible by water and linked to five neighbouring countries with 10,000 km of waterways that is navigable year-round”, he stated.
Jamoh enumerated the Blue Economy inland assets as Niger North, Niger Central, Upper Benue, Lower Benue, Niger South, Western Littoral, Eastern Littoral and Lake Chad.
The immediate past President, Chartered Institute of Transport and Logistics (CITL), however listed some of the criminal challenges of the country’s Blue Economy as piracy, smuggling and illegal oil bunkering.
Others, he stated, are narcotic-trafficking, arms running, non-payment of taxes, pollution, kidnapping, encroachment and human trafficking.
Jamoh told the audience that the much awaited contentious Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) disbursement to merited stakeholders will take place any moment from now as all grey areas leading to its delay have been sorted out.
In fact, he assured that the disbursement must happen before the present administration exits on May 29, 2023, adding that the template for the Fund’s disbursement had been worked out with the consultant, Dr Chris Asoluka, a maritime expert.
In his remark, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Centre for Financial Journalism (CFJ), Mr Ray Echebiri, said The Bullion Lecture series was part of the organization’s contributions to the growth and development of the country’s economy.
He said this year’s, the 7th in the series, was timed to assist the country to begin to refocus on a sector that had much potentials but yet remained undeveloped.