President Muhamadu Buhari has vowed to ensure that Nigeria achieves its goal of attaining the Category C seat in the Council of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
To this end, he stated that Nigeria would promote and support effective African participation in the council of the IMO, stressing however that this can only yield the desired results when African states speak with one voice at the global level for the enduring interest of Africa.
He declared this yesterday while delivering his speech at the ongoing African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) annual conference holding in Abuja.
Also, Buhari identified the need for African countries to join efforts to preserve the African-rich maritime resources in order to protect sea foods, achieve food security and earn foreign exchange through export of sea foods.
Buhari who was represented by the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, said Nigeria has taken steps to tackle some of the challenges peculiar to it while still requiring regional and sub regional collaboration.
Buhari said the ongoing rebranding of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was part of the federal government's efforts to enhance economic diversification and repositioning of the maritime sector as the country's highest revenue earner in future.
According to him, "We have stepped up engagement to address the disagreement, misunderstanding and contentious issues in the Niger Delta, which is a part of the Gulf of guinea. We recently approved the maritime security architecture and infrastructure to be jointly coordinated by NIMASA, the Ministry of Transport and the Office of the National Security Adviser.
"We are giving required support to the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies with others within our sub region so that we can work effectively to police our water ways for trade to flourish. This arrangement will also contribute to eliminate piracy and sea robbery within our maritime domain. The results are encouraging and piracy has dropped in the last six months. In the same vein, we are making substantial investment to improve human capacity by taking advantage of international trade and internship opportunities in the shipping and maritime industry."
He added, "We have also paid significant attention to making it easier to do business and one of our immediate priorities in this regard, is the entry and exit of goods especially in our sea ports. The measures that we are putting in place are designed to improve the efficiency of our ports and to enable quick turnaround time of vessels. Technology is also been deployed to make our port operations more transparent and effective in support of economic growth. NIMASA, which is the regulatory agency of shipping and maritime activities in Nigeria is been reformed so that it can play its expected role as a facilitator of economic prosperity."
On his part, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, pledged the commitment of the National Assembly on passing legislations that will make the country's waterways safer for exploration and exploitation of its natural resources for the benefit of Nigerians.
He regretted that Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing had cost West Africa over $1.3 billion annually.
He said: "We must tighten the legal and regulatory framework to stop these losses. We must intensify efforts to promote intra- African trade in fisheries as statistics also show that Pan-African fish trade is worth about 20 billion euros. This will help to sustain African economies in the long term."
In his speech, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, stated that Nigeria, through the hosting of the event wishes to reinstate its commitment to continually contribute to the growth of the maritime sector on the continent of Africa and globally.
"The conference is not merely to praise the maritime sector of Africa but to tackle the maritime problems being encountered in the continent. It is regrettable that despite Africa's enormous maritime endowment, we remain susceptible to raft of challenges."
On his part, the Director General of the NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Adol Peterside, explained: "Hosting AAMA two years after African leaders through the African Union subscribed to seven keys aspiration encapsulated in the agenda 2063 at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2015 and three years after the adoption of Africa Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050 concedes on Nigeria a special status.
"Only recently, to further reinforce the critical role maritime can play in the development of Africa, the African Union (AU) special summit of Heads of Government on maritime security, safety and development in Lome, Togo, October 15, 2016 aligned with us.
"They adopted a Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development aimed at making Africa's maritime space the key driver of the continents socio-economic development. This document was endorsed by 43 out of 54 African nations."