- Says blue economy
is pathway for Nigeria’s economic Divisification
(Written by Silas Onuoha):
The National President, Association of Nigeria Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Hon Tony Iju Nwabunike, has said that there is an array of untapped opportunities holding back not less than 30,000 immediate jobs, if the maritime and inland waters are safe for legitimate business activities, where it is also properly interfaced with the oil sector.
He said such areas include importrt, fishing, tourism, transport
chandling, dredging and
Nwabunike made these details known while making a paper presentation on; ‘Blue Economy as Pathway for Nigeria’s economic Divisification’,
at the Annual lecture, organised by Transport Day Newspaper, yesterday, at Sheraton hotel, Lagos.
According to him, blue economy if well harnessed, has the potentials to give governments at all tiers more taxes, to provide sustainable earnings that will go round than what oil sector is giving at present.
“Nigerian economy cannot afford to keep quaking anytime there is a downward slide in prices of oil in the international market.
Staying on that economic route as our only lifeline for sustainability will only lead us into piling debts upon debts and going cap in hand for debt forgiveness where we are unable to
pay. A perpetual borrowing nation becomes an economic slave to it’s creditors. As our population increases, the monolithic oil economy has become very unsustainable. It is time to look the direction of our waters.
“Maritime industry is the nation’s economic low hanging fruit capable of cushioning the temporary effect of inadequate oil revenue.
The 853km long Nigeria coastline runs through seven Southern States of the Federation, Lagos, Ondo, Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross Rivers bordering the Atlantic Ocean.
These are aside other States linked by inland waters for copious socio- cultural and commercial activities.
“These navigable inland water comprises of rivers, lakes, lagoons, creeks and those directly linking to the sea.
So, we are rich in maritime resources, rich in oil which is transported by ships but sometime ago, in the recent past , we were tagged as the poverty capital of the world. This is ironically our reality, which we can change for better.
“Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), declared that it would deduct N112 billion from oil and gas proceeds for April to ensure continuous supply of petroleum products to the country and guarantee energy security.
Implications include not having oil revenue for the Federal Government to share with the States and local governments
“This situation is premised on the hike in crude oil prices on the deregulated downstream sector and the need for uninterrupted supply of petroleum products to citizens
“Even if oil prices rise astronomically now to $200 per barrel, Nigeria is a country in debt and still looking for loans to fund the 2021 budget as at May this year.’
Nwabunike continued; “What this tells us is that oil money alone cannot satisfy our national thirst for funds. Federal,states and local governments struggle to pay salaries while pension and other welfare liabilities are almost unattended in many parts of the country.
“Organised labour and some State governments are likely to experience face offs due to States’ inability to meet their payment obligations. These are fallouts of oil revenue inadequacy and looking to improve in the immediate”.
THREAT OF INSECURITY ON BLUE ECONOMY
Hon Nwabunike added: “Our maritime domain suffers the setback of general insecurity either due to lack of priority attention, inadequate security platforms like patrol boats, aircrafts and supporting technology gadgets and lesser number of personnel to implement or enforce adherence to security on water.
“Maritime piracy, sea robbery, oil theft, kidnapping on water or through water have been copiously recorded in the domain that should be contributing to our economic well being.
“I am almost tempted to say that our Exclusive Economic Zone is no longer exclusive to us, because the people I choose to call maritime bandits are threatening our space.
“I am aware that Government through Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency ( NIMASA), is rising to the occasion with planned deployment of advanced security assets to energise our blue economy. I believe it will work if consciously sustained . This they tagged the “Deep Blue Project”
“It is anticipated that this move will go a long way in fighting piracy and other maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea and our country’s entire territorial waters.
“Safety of vessels, cargoes and crews on our waters have direct impacts on our overall economy since the maritime sector is critical for us in the areas of trade, investment, employment and recreation.
“While government is procuring platforms and training personnel for maritime security, I wish to advocate that a communnity supported security approach will be more productive.
Government should as a matter of policy involve youths of coastal communities in a kind of Civilian Task Force, to support the Navy and other security agencies in nipping our maritime insecurity in the bud”.
He emphasised: ‘Further development of our maritime potentials will be a bold step towards economic diversification for job creation, addressing insecurity and positioning our ports for hub status in the West and Central African regions.
“Everyone agrees that a safer and more secure maritime sector will open a vista of economic improvements for us a country Most thriving businesses in our maritime domain are forced to spend a good part of their profits on provision of security. Where such private arrangements are not made, oil , construction and other workers operating or transiting through waters face risk of kidnap, robbery or murder
“Of a truth, our maritime security profile and reputation are not impressive and should be urgently worked upon.”
DYSFUNCTIONAL DISPOSITION OF GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TOWARDS OPPORTUNITIES IN BLUE ECONOMY
His words; “Over 97 percent of ships lifting Nigerian crude oil to buyers in refining countries and vessels bringing refined petroleum products into the country are foreign owned.
These vessels trading on our waters and carrying our number one foreign exchange products are manned mainly by foreign professionals and deckhands . Nigerian ship owners are struggling to break into this area of investment
“Notable number of Nigerians are involved as crew members onboard Liquified Natural Gas and Liquified Petroleum Gas ( LPG) vessels under Nigeria LNG Limited and it’s subsidiary, Nigera LNG Ship Management Limited (NSML).
I have to identify this because it’s worth replicating in other areas and made to spread across the industry where Nigerians will be first line beneficiaries of incentives derivable from our natural maritime endowments.
The oil industry is truly not interfacing enough with the maritime sector to help in reversing this trend of inadequate participation of Nigerian investors and professionals in the lifting of crude oil and working as crew members onboard ships trading on our waters
“Over the years , I have followed the Nigeria Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB) and posit that it is doing very well in expanding opportunities for Nigerians in the oil industry but has not synchronised with other agencies like NIMASA, to promote our cabotage regime in maritime.
Maritime transport is the key to unlock most untapped opportunities in the oil industry and will go a long way in supporting government’s effort at addressing insecurity in our coastal area”.