By; KAYODE ATOFOLAKI, Lagos.
The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Dakuku Peterside has observed that the recurring rhetoric on the potentials of the Nigerian maritime industry is over and that it is time for stakeholders to unite to actualise these potentials for the benefit of the nation. The Director General who was speaking on Business Nigeria, a Live programme on Television Continental (TVC) in Lagos noted that the time for action is now, to convert this bastion of opportunities into tangibles.
Dr. Peterside who noted that the maritime industry is the second largest income earner for the country after oil and gas, said that it is time that the country starts benefitting from the contributions of the industry in terms of employment creation, wealth generation and government revenue. The DG called for the integration of the maritime industry into the economic development agenda of the country saying it is a prerequisite if the nation is to harness the vast opportunities in the sector. He said that a lot of areas in the sector have not been developed stating the issue of ownership of ocean going vessels as a case in point.
He said “we are perhaps the only country in the world that only foreign flagged vessels lift our crude to the international market. We do not have a single Nigerian flagged vessel that lifts our crude. Our ferry services are also underdeveloped and there are vast opportunities for ship building leveraging on the Cabotage Act”.
The DG observed that the multiplier effect of Nigerian vessels with Nigerian crew lifting Nigeria’s crude can better be imagined given the cost of freight and the wages of seafarers involved. On allegations of corruption in the industry, Dr. Peterside who said that corruption was not limited to the maritime industry however expressed confidence in the ability of the Federal Government led by President Muhammadu Buhari to tackle the scourge.
While noting that human contact in any payment system is a precursor for corruption, the DG explained that the Agency was automating its processes and systems to eliminate human contact in order to engender efficiency and eliminate leakages.
“We noticed over time that corruption in NIMASA was propagated through external influences as such we are reforming our people, putting them through a re-orientation process, making them understand that the little things we do in NIMASA affect our global perception” the DG said. Dr. Peterside also said that comparatively, Nigerian ports are better positioned and more viable than her other African counterparts if the necessary funding is injected into the maritime sector to develop the infrastructure.
According to the DG “there has been a global drop in the price of crude oil which has affected the revenue derivable from the maritime sector and the fiscal regime that had existed also affected importation to a large extent”. Even so, the DG is confident that the maritime sector will still experience growth this year and contribute significantly to the Nigerian economy.
On maritime security, the DG stated that it is work in progress with relevant partners to rid the Nigerian waterways and indeed the Gulf of Guinea of maritime crimes. He cited the collaboration with the Nigerian Navy who recently launched an electronic based surveillance facility called the ‘Falcon Eye’ as a major step in the right direction. Dr. Peterside said that NIMASA has also keyed in to the ECOWAS integrated Maritime Security Strategy as well as that of the African Union (AU), all aimed at combating piracy and other maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea.
“We are committed to showing continuous presence on our waters. The Air Force has Maritime Patrol Aircrafts (MPA) to provide aerial surveillance while the Navy does the sea patrols.
“With the Falcon Eye of the Nigerian Navy and our own satellite surveillance system, we will constantly keep an eye on our Exclusive Economic Zone. What we need to do now is to improve our response time which was quite a challenge previously.”
“In the meantime, NIMASA is championing the enactment of an anti-piracy bill to deal with the prosecution and punishment of offenders. Once all these are in place, I can assure you that our water ways will be safer to do business and we would get more of our people employed and make more money for themselves and our country” Dr Peterside concluded.
By; KAYODE ATOFOLAKI, Lagos.