Eromosele Abiodun posits that the enormous untapped potential for the making of a vibrant, self-reliant African economy lies in the blue economy
A recent report by the African Development Bank (AfDB) revealed that a significant decline in Africa's poverty will require the continent's gross domestic product (GDP) to grow at an overall average of seven per cent. In order to achieve this goal, experts believe it is of paramount importance that Africa continues its international trade and strengthens its current development. To do this, analysts contended that Africa must make effective use of its oceans and seas. Oceans, seas and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the earth's ecosystem and are critical to sustainable development. They cover more than two-thirds of the earth's surface and contain 97 per cent of the planet's water. Oceans contribute to poverty eradication by creating sustainable livelihoods and decent work. Over three billion people depend on marine and coastal resources for their livelihoods. In addition, oceans are crucial for global food security and human health. They are also the primary regulator of the global climate, an important link for greenhouse gases and they provide us with water and the oxygen we breathe. Finally, oceans host huge reservoirs of biodiversity.
In order for oceans, seas and marine resources to successfully contribute to human well-being, ecosystem integrity with properly functioning biogeochemical and physical processes, is required. This does not require unperturbed systems, but systems that have not suffered serious or irreversible harm. Ecosystem integrity allows for the provision of so-called supporting ecosystem services which, in turn, are the bases of important regulating, provisioning and cultural ecosystem services that are of crucial importance for humans. Whereas the benefits provided by oceans, seas and marine resources are important to all people, the poor, indigenous peoples, and vulnerable groups with a high dependency on natural resources and ecosystem services may have their well-being especially tied to these benefits. The link between oceans, seas and marine resources and human well-being is not one-sided. While an increase in human well-being is frequently generated at the cost of ecosystem integrity, it can also potentially reduce the negative anthropocentric impacts on the marine environment, for example due to a more sustainable use of resources, changes in production and consumption patterns and improved management and control of human activities. In order for this to happen, good governance and an enabling environment are, however, required.
NIMASA Takes Initiative
While the needed steps necessary to take advantage of the enormous resources on the ocean and seas have not been taken in the past, the new management of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is striving to change the narrative. To NIMASA, the blue economy, if well harnessed, is capable of replacing crude oil as Nigeria's major sour of revenue.
To this end, the agency recently convened a harmonised stakeholders interactive forum with the theme: "Synergy: An Instrument for Sustainable Development of the Blue Economy."
Speaking at the meeting, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside stressed the need for stakeholders to actively participate in the Nigerian maritime sector in order to support the growth of the country's blue economy.
Peterside said that amount of littoral states in Nigeria and the length of the nation's water ways makes the development of Nigeria blue economy a necessity for the country's benefit.
The NIMASA DG said that the agency is currently on a mission of changing the landscape of the nation's maritime domain by putting a policy framework in place to allow maritime business to thrive.
According to Peterside, "Maritime provide a veritable opportunity for us to grow our economy. We will ensure we play our role by providing necessary policies for industry players to reap the benefits of participating in the sector in order to develop our blue economy for Nigeria's benefit."
Peterside, however, charged industry stakeholders to collaborate and cooperate with the agency as it strives to create an enabling environment for them to operate, adding that the agency has created various platforms through which stakeholders can communicate with the agency on various issues.
"The industry belongs to stakeholders, we must synergize to get the benefits embedded in maritime, we must work together all the time because it is our priority that those who do business in the industry flourish in order to develop our blue economy, and that is why we are in the process of acquiring more surveillance aircrafts and additional fast intervention vessels as enshrined in the new maritime security architecture approved by the Federal Executive Council to ensure that our maritime domain remains safe for doing business" he said.
The NIMASA boss also hinted that as part of ensuring the Nigerians reap the benefits of the industry, said that the agency is also carrying out a robust human capacity building for the sector.
He added that the agency has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with some foreign schools to provide Sea time training to the graduates of the Nigerian Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) which has hitherto been a challenge in the past.
Also at the event, the Chairman Governing Board of the agency, Major General Jonathan India Garba (rtd.) said that the board would continue to support the Peterside-led executive management by giving necessary approvals that would reform the Nigerian maritime sector for economic benefit.
In the same vein, the Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Mr. Muhammed Umar Bago said that the legislative arm of the government is ready to support NIMASA and stakeholders by providing laws that would advance the country's maritime sector.
Also speaking at the event, the Chairman of Nigerian Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin commended NIMASA's drive towards building capacity for the sector. He said that the effect of these drive would be felt in the industry sooner rather than later.
Peterside since assumption of duty had always advocated for stakeholders cooperation towards building a viable maritime sector. He has also championed the repositioning of the regulatory agency for optimum service delivery.
At the end of the interactive session, stakeholders agreed that pursuant to its statutory mandates, NIMASA shall create an enabling environment for the private sector to invest in shipping in order to achieve the objective of a Nigerian blue economy.
Stakeholders also agreed that the NIMASA should continue to make the necessary representations to the approving authorities in order to facilitate the disbursement and utilisation of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) for its statutory purpose of developing indigenous shipping capacity.
NIMASA admitted responsibility for the provision of sea time berths for NSDP cadets and is exploring creative avenues for achieving this given the current constraints of inadequate funding and the lack of an indigenous national fleet.
"NIMASA is committed to pursuing its Maritime Administration (MARAD) mandates via the path of collaboration and engagement with stakeholders and in the spirit of this interactive forum, all critical issues shall be duly presented to the stakeholders for their input and consultation.
"That the battle against piracy and other criminal activities on Nigerian waters is receiving the highest attention from the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA and other agencies working in collaboration and will receive a substantial boost when the recently approved Surveillance Contract delivers state of the art equipment and facilities for the use of the industry, it stated in a communiqué released at the end of the meeting.
NIMASA promised to engage relevant agencies and stakeholders in order to create a regime of concessions and policy initiatives designed to boost the competitive edge of Nigerian shipowners vis a viz their foreign counterparts; NIMASA in the communiqué stated that it will soon launch a programme of zero tolerance to non-compliance with maritime safety and security standards in order to eliminate substandard shipping in Nigeria.
It added that the processes of the Nigerian Ship Registration Office are being automated and shall be available online, real for shipowners and prospective owners without undue delay.
It added, "NIMASA is committed to the maintenance of a clean and pristine Nigerian marine environment in line with applicable international Conventions and has put in place the appropriate administrative regime to achieve this. In line with the Blue Economy initiative, NIMASA shall going forwards subject all policies to the test of sustainability and every process that fails this test shall either be amended or eliminated."
Stakeholders also agreed that there is urgent need for NIMASA to engage relevant agencies with a view to initiating measures designed to develop passenger, containerized, wet and dry cargo transportation in Nigeria's internal waterways.
Stakeholders also agreed that calculation of NIMASA's three per cent levy on all wet cargo shall be based on freight ton which is Cubic Measurement (CBM), and "That in line with the provisions of the MARPOL Convention, all tankers operating in Nigerian waters are required to have in place adequate and sufficient insurance cover to minimize the risk of losses sequel to oil spills and tanker accidents."
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari had recently 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 said this while declaring open the third edition of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) conference.
He noted that several other initiatives, which demonstrate the critical importance in food and environmental uncertainty, and the enormous untapped potential for the making of a strong self-reliant African economy, lies in the blue economy.
"African fishing grounds are being pillaged, its waters polluted, and piracy is heightening maritime insecurity and causing increase in the cost of maritime insurance and trade. The regulatory and legal framework to properly manage maritime resources and overcome these challenges are still inadequate, and we are yet to fully develop the human and institutional capacities required to respond appropriately to these challenges," said the President who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo at the two-day event organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
According to Buhari, Africa is on the right path and there is need for more collaborations and synergy to develop the maritime sector beginning from the national, regional and sub-regional levels.
"Here in Nigeria, we have taken steps to tackle some of the challenges peculiar to us while still requiring regional and sub-regional collaboration," he said.
To him, government is giving the required support to the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies to effectively police the waterways for trade to flourish.
"This arrangement will also eliminate piracy and sea robbery within our maritime domain. The results are encouraging and piracy has dropped in the last six months," he said.
Buhari, who stated that government had paid significant attention to making it easier to do business in the seaports, said measures designed to improve the efficiency of the ports and to enable quick turnaround time of vessels, were put in place.
"Technology is also been deployed to make our port operations more transparent and effective to 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," he said.
He, however, advised the delegates to figure out a coherent and collaborative response to the challenges facing the continent's maritime sector, which according to him required cooperation among states, agencies and other players like the private sector.