Amid dwindling revenue and huge borrowing by the federal government, stakeholders predicted maritime sector can single-handedly finance the country’s budget if the potentials in the sector are properly harnessed.
For instance, the Nigeria Customs Service has generated over N2.3trillion income from January to December 19th, 2021. Also, agencies like Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the maritime sector could equally generate huge revenue for the government.
Confirming this, the Nigerian Economic Summit Group(NESG) said the nation’s maritime sector can as well generate a whooping N7trillion revenue annually.
NESG also stated that the sector could create additional four million jobs in the next five years, if properly harnessed.
However, stakeholders have said Nigeria was not on the track to harness the abundant resources enornous in the maritime sector due to some of the archaic policies stunting the growth of the sector.
Maritime stakeholders have, however, said in 2022, what is actually needed in the sector is a couple of far-reaching policy decisions and actions that will unlock the huge potentials inherent in the sector.
According to them, government needs the political will and sincerity of purpose to put together policies that will address the many years of neglect and sabotage of the sector. The neglect of the maritime sector according to them comes in different forms. These include total lack of appreciation of the role shipping can play in the nation’s economic prosperity, infrastructure decay, unfavourable policies and festering maritime insecurity.
However, in 2022, stakeholders wanted the federal government to change the term of trade from Free On Board (FOB) to Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF), return the 41 items that were banned from accessing foreign exchange from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), disbursement of Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF), the floating of National Carrier among others.
Speaking, a clearing agent, Ikechukwu Ohakim said government has over time clung to Free On Board (FOB) terms of trade with regards to the nation’s crude oil export instead of Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) which would have enabled her citizens to participate in the carriage of the nation’s crude. Nigeria has been comfortable with throwing away the freight component of the oil trade, and shamelessly, bearing the odium of being the only member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) that cannot transport her crude to the world market.
Ohakim posited that instead of empowering indigenous operators, government and its oil corporation have been showing preference for foreign ship owners who are increasingly being empowered to dominate the sector saying shipping and economic experts have ruled billions of dollars the nation lost every year to these foreign ship owners due to the nation’s inability to lift her crude to foreign buyers.
“The Federal Ministry of Transportation last year estimated a total of about $8 billion freight cost yearly for the oil industry. This, of course, is lost to foreigners. Trade facilitation is another area that government has been failing in the maritime sector. Nigeria is a trading nation with trade being the country’s second-largest contributor to GDP.
“Maritime transport is the facilitator of this trade since over 90% of the world’s trade is carried by sea. Unfortunately, Nigeria lacks the critical and essential tools of trade facilitation, thus allowing trading partners to dictate the terms,” he lamented.
According to him, “the very important trade facilitation tool Nigeria sorely lacks is vessels. Efforts by the present government to refloat the Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) or establish a new national carrier was abandoned halfway without adequate reason. And there has been no concerted effort to encourage Nigerian ownership of vessels.
“Ownership of ships is very critical to the implementation of the local content policy, especially in maritime and oil industry. If the local content policy laws and the Cabotage law are implemented in terms of trade facilitation, experts project that Nigeria can generate over N20 trillion and 10 million jobs in 5 years.”
“To do this, a lot of political will and determination are needed from the Federal Government. It must come out with a policy which makes the existence of a national shipping fleet inevitable.”
“Government should also take bold steps to address the well-known man-made challenges facing indigenous ship owners such as unfavourable policies of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). Nigerian ship owners have often complained about NNPC breaching the provisions of Nigerian coastal and local content laws in the shipping of petroleum products in the downstream sector of the oil and gas industry in favour of foreign vessels – a situation that encourages massive capital flight.”
“According to the indigenous ship owners, foreign-operated vessels engaged in NNPC’s marine service contracts account for over 90% of the Cabotage trade, thus creating an uneven operating environment detrimental to the growth of indigenous tonnage.”
He, however, called on the government to give the maritime sector serious attention inother to maximise the potentials inherent in the sector.