…As Okorefe tasks Oyetola on synergy with other relevant ministries
Stakeholders in the nation’s maritime industry, yesterday, converged on Lagos to discuss Nigeria’s potential in Marine and Blue Economy sector of the economy with a call on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to exercise the required political will to push farther by ensuring that the oft routine talk about the rehabilitation of collapsed critical port infrastructure received urgent executive attention.
The event was the League of Maritime Editors’ Silver Jubilee anniversary which was held at the Travel Inn, Ikeja, Lagos. Setting the stage for discussion on the theme of the anniversary which is “Harnessing Nigeria’s Potential In Marine and Blue Economy”, the President of the League, Chief Timothy Paul Okorocha, in his welcome address, posited that as development partners, the League looked forward to the effective participation of respective agencies in the current administration’s renewed agenda template.
According to Okorocha, the League also wants to see the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA move away from the ritual of endless talk and lamentations into doing the needful, the reconstruction of broken down assets and infrastructure.
He, however, urged President Tinubu to provide the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Hon. Gboyega Oyetola and his Ministry the needed impetus to bring to an end, the unending rat race of the disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund, CVFF established since 2003, to jumpstart a new lease of life for the capacity development of the indigenous ship owners and to enable Nigerians participate meaningfully in the seaborne trade, especially with the proposed commencement of the implementation policy of the Blue Economy.
He said, “The League over the years has seen the genuine struggle by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and its leadership, especially under the present administration to disburse the CVFF in its commitment to grow local capacity building but observe the otherwise disruptive tendencies within the field of political play. We appeal to Mr. President to use his good office to prevail on the relevant authorities to respond to the needs of our industry as there can be no other time than now.”
“The League is aware of His Excellency’s important pioneering task of positioning the new ministry into achieving industry specific growth projections, we want to assure you sir, that the League and maritime media in general will work with you and your ministry and agencies under your purview. The League wants to urge you sir, to be more sector specific in your programmes and to crave depth as you pursue the implementation of the blue economy by engaging and partnering with stakeholders as and when necessary to avoid creating a gap.
“Standing on both sides of the divide, we want to respectfully inform you that industry stakeholders and Nigerians at large look up to you to be more of a doer than a sayer, a path your predecessor vigorously explored during his short but eventful stint to the joy of port users”, he added.
Speaking on the theme of the event, a lecturer with the Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko, Dr. Charles Okorefe observed that Nigerians like talking about potentials even as he wondered when these potentials would be realized. According to him, “I think the time has come for us to actualize those potentials especially in this very particular industry of ours and I am so glad that we have somebody who we can look up to as a Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, because the Ministry of Transport as it was previously constituted was a misnomer because the Marine aspect of that Ministry was underplayed even though it had the highest number of parastatals in that ministry.”
“If you recall, there was nothing like the issue of land transport even up till now. What you really have is railway. So, the question you will want to ask is, who supervises land and road transport in Nigeria? Nobody! Even up till today, what you have are non state actors, agberos across the states collecting tickets and buying and selling tickets.”
Noting that it was projected that in another thirty years, over a hundred million jobs could be created through the blue economy system, he said, “I don’t know whether that is a mirage or that is possible but in Nigeria, I can tell you that a lot can be harnessed through our marine system and the blue economy. Already, Nigeria has been a maritime nation for a very long time. We have been running our port systems beginning from when the Port-Harcourt port was established in 1912 and the Apapa port in 1924, up till now, we have had several ports doting the landscape of Nigeria where import and export trades are taking place.
“But the blue economy is deeper than that. We are talking about things like biodiversity, ocean exploration, deep sea mining, cable line activities, maritime tourism. These are things that are absent in Nigeria. If you go to some other parts of the world, a small country like Gambia, for instance, marine tourism is the main source of their national income. But in Nigeria, we are still very far behind. In Marine tourism, if you go to the Caribbeans, for instance, they don’t have anything. What is their major source of income? Marine tourism, people flock the Bahamas, they flock Curacao and all of those small island nations who have nothing else but the Marine environment bringing in billions of dollars.
“How about Egypt? The Nile, so do we have the ocean resources? Do we have the rivers? Do we have the lakes to explore in Nigeria to give us a type of leverage? Yes! We do!! So, the question is, how prepared are we to go the extra mile to get all this things in place so that Nigeria can also put her name on the map of nations that have developed her ecotourism?
“How about renewable energy? We have been talking about problems of power and all of that. We have more than enough gas, how has that helped our power situation? Over the years, since we were little, you will be hearing “Up NEPA” when they bring light. Till tomorrow, our grand children are still shouting “Up NEPA” but now, we have the means to develop renewable energy from our oceans and rivers.
“Even in Agriculture, fisheries and you also talk about exotic sea foods for export purposes. We cannot be depending on imports alone, what are those things that we have in excess that we can process through the rivers for export? Fish, prawns, other ornamental sea foods. We have a port that was in Sapele, I said was, the port is still there, it was the centre for export of wood products. There’s a company called AT & P – African Timber and Plywood. That was the fulcrum of export of wood from Edo forests, Delta forests and so on. The same thing for rubber, the same thing for palm oil and its derivatives.
“But all of those have gone down the drains. Today, I learnt we import palm oil from Malaysia, the same people who came to NIFOR to learn how to plant seedlings, today, NIFOR cannot pay salaries. But Nigeria is importing palm oil from Malaysia. These are exportable items.
“So, I believe the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy has to do a lot of synergy with the Ministry of Agriculture, for instance, with the Ministry of Power and the Ministry of Tourism. They cannot do it alone because these are resources that we need to harness in order for us to develop and come out of potentials to reality in driving our ocean and marine resources.
“We have been talking endlessly, the President will talk about the disbursement of CVFF. For how many years are we going to continue to talk about the disbursement of CVFF? What is the purpose of CVFF? It is meant to assist indigenous operators, ship owners to acquire new bottoms and also other players like those that are into foundries. How are we helping them? How can we grow when these things are not put in place?
“So, the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy has a lot of work to do. The parastatals under that Ministry have to be put in their toes to be able to key into the vision of this blue economy concept because a lot is on ground for offer. And the more we put our acts together, by bringing together those that can drive the vision of that Ministry, the better it will be for Nigeria.”
Photo: Dr. Charles Okorefe, lecturer at the Maritime University of Nigeria, Okerenkoko, Delta State.
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