If properly harnessed, Nigeria’s Maritime sector will generate over N7trillion yearly and can, therefore, massively fund the nation’s national budget, create more jobs for the youths, as well as be hub in West and Central Africa. But due to poor regulations, the sector has been bleeding massively over the past years.
Absence of a strategic maritime economic blue print, flawed institutional framework, maritime insecurity, lack of data as well as withheld Carbotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) are the bane of the nation’s maritime sector.
Also, non-disbursement of the CVFF to indigenous shipowners has made foreigners take over the nation’s coastal maritime trade, thereby, making local shipowners groan and out of business.
Also, the inability of the government to move the nation’s affreightment term from Free on Board (FOB) to Cost Insurance and Freight (CIF) despite numerous assurances have also been a bane.
Other aspect of the sector such as harnessing blue economy, automation, increase in dwell time of cargo, vessel turn around time among others are factors militating against harnessing Nigeria huge maritime potentials.
However, with the appointment of a new Transport minister, Engr. Mu’azu Sambo and minister of state, Ademola Adegoroye, stakeholders are optimistic that the fortunes of the maritime sector will change.
The stakeholders’ assertion were premised on the fact that with the background of the new minister in the maritime sector, a lot will be achieved.
For instance, the Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), expressed confidence in the ability of Engr. Sambo and Adegoroye, to fulfil President Muhammadu Buhari’s vision in the sector.
STOAN chairman, Princess Vicky Haastrup, said Sambo’s previous rich work experience in the maritime industry will help him succeed in the new task assigned to him.
“We are particularly happy with your appointment considering your rich work experience and numerous contributions to nation building both within and outside the maritime industry.
“With your experience as the immediate past minister of state in the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing, and previous work experience in the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Savannah Bank, Allied Bank, NICON Insurance Corporation, and as the general manager Lagos Zone, National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), where you meritoriously retired from public service in 2019; we have no doubt that you will make significant positive impact as the Honourable Minister of Transportation,” the STOAN chairman said.
Also, the Ship Owners’ Association of Nigeria (SOAN), urged the minister to ensure the disbursement 9f the CVFF.
The association spoke through its president, Dr. Mkgeorge Onyung, urged Sambo to ensure that the funds should not be allowed to continue lying fallow while shipping suffers setback in Nigeria.
He also expressed happiness that the minister who was a maritime industry person with huge knowledge and experience of operations of the sector, therefore, is quite informed on how to approach issues.
Stating that industry operators were excited about this rare opportunity, Onyung stated that the minister, who has the powers to issue the guidelines for the disbursement of the CVFF should not delay further in actualising it.
He noted that the minister is like a sprinter handed over the last baton in a relay race, and must put in his best to win the race. In other words, as the present administration has less than 10 months to end, Onyung was of the opinion that the maritime sector should receive due attention within this short time.
The ship owner stated that much as development of other departments of the transportation sector was equally important, maritime had not received the kind and level of attention it deserves, he stressed. He stated that maritime has two major divisions – shipping, which constitutes 98 per cent and the non-shipping part that makes up only two per cent.
For this reason, the shipping expert said, Nigeria must see shipping as a low hanging fruit to build wealth and prosperity. The SOAN president averred that the disbursement of the CVFF will go a long way as panacea to many problems of the sector and the economy of Nigeria at large.
However, stakeholders in the sector have urged the minister to ensure quickly study the worthwhile developments and recommendations at industry summits in recent times.
Speaking, the former managing director, Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Adebayo Sarumi, said Sambo is at an advantageous position given the robust developments and engagements carried out by his predecessors.
Sarumi, however, stressed that the implementation of these strategies should be carried out together with industry stakeholders to avoid a backlash and conflicts following the implementation.
His words: “There are lots of commendable agenda on ground at the Ministry of Transportation. So, the new Minister should be keen to work in line with the goals and objectives of the previous minister, Rotimi Amaechi performed well in his time as Transport minister. In fact, he did a wonderful job and anyone who is frank would attest to this. So, there is no need for Sambo to reinvent the will. He can work with the roadmap already in place and collaborate with industry stakeholders to attain success across various aspects of the transport sector.”
Meanwhile, Sarumi seized the opportunity to admonish the transport agencies such as Shippers’ Council, NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC), and others to give the new Minister the requisite support and collaboration to make his administration successful.
“As I congratulate this new Minister, I want to enjoin him to speedily get to know the numerous developments that have been recorded in the sector and implement the worthwhile recommendations in partnership with industry stakeholders. This is all that is required for the new Transport Minister to succeed,” he said.