The Direct General, DG, of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has said that Nigeria has huge opportunities lying in her under-utilised blue economy and is capable of promoting growth and development which will help the country overcome its present economic challenges.
Blue economy, according to experts, is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs whilst preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.
Jamoh, who stated this in his presentation at The Bullion Lecture organised by Centre for Financial Journalism held at the Civic Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, lamented the failure of Nigeria’s successive governments to explore the vast resources that the blue economy offers.
He said the blue economy could be used to knock off Nigeria’s huge debt profile which drags its development efforts and makes poverty thrive amidst plenty, adding that sea business is in vogue globally and that Nigeria’s future lies in blue economy. According to him, Nigeria has over 200 nautical miles available for fishing yet lacks in the sustainability which the blue economy offers. “Ocean resources like fishes, shrimps and other sea foods have not been satisfactorily harnessed, just as ship repairs are done in neighbouring countries and in faraway Turkey because the facilities are lacking locally”, he said. He stressed that Nigeria must develop appropriate policy interventions that focus on exploring and exploiting the huge opportunities of blue economy anchored on good governance.
“We need to take stock of what is out there in our waters, we need to take stock of what we have in terms of what will create jobs, build coastal communities, grow careers, enhance transportation of humans and cargo, renew and sustain the environment, reduce poverty and make our nation competitive by maximising our competitive oceanic advantages,” Dr Jamoh said. He observed that Nigeria’s economic structure has not provided the window for diversification to thrive because of its inclination to traditional mode of producing goods and services. According to him, “The country had focused on a hybrid economic structure that blends oil with agriculture but the former remains consistent as an economic mainstay ahead of the latter over the years. Today, the waters provide low hanging fruits to diversify the economy.
“It is increasingly being accepted that the country’s future lies in Blue Economy – with a coastline bordering the Atlantic Ocean from Badagry in Lagos to Bakassi in Cross River State”. Elaborating on the efforts by NIMASA to position Nigeria on a proper footing in the blue economy sector, the maritime safety expert noted that the agency has been driving the policy of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government to achieve the benefits of blue economy whose fallouts extend to the hinterland. Dr. Jamoh revealed that the outgoing Buhari administration created the Expanded Partnership Committee on Sustainable Blue Economy in Nigeria (EPCSBEN) chaired by Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, with participation cutting across ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs), while the transportation ministry plays a leading role. While many confine their thinking to a blue economy concept that revolves around littoral states where large body of waters are found with ports and jetties, the benefits are cascading to non-littoral areas.
“States like Kaduna and Kano now have dry ports. Northern based businesses and importers can depend on trans-shipment of cargoes from seaports to these dry ports. The dry ports possess exportable trade consignments before moving them to the seaports. The combined capacities of Kaduna and Kano dry ports with other terminals in the North far exceeds over 18,000 TEUs (twenty-foot equivalent unit) and growing,” he explained. Citing what he called the five key pillars of the blue economy, Jamoh said developing the sector hinges on the following: sustainability, promoting ocean resources, preservation of the ecosystem, economic growth and improved livelihood and jobs. He also presented real and potential threats to the blue economy which border on criminalities and environmental challenges. These include piracy, smuggling, illegal oil bunkering, kidnapping, human trafficking, encroachment among others. He enumerated various government assets and projects being implemented by NIMASA which he said have given Nigerians more leverage to harness the enormous resources of the nation’s maritime environment and the drive towards economic diversification. He showed through his presentation that the country stands to benefit more from her waters “if sustainable efforts are made to harness the many untapped marine potentials for investment and job creation while preventing marine pollution.”
Earlier in her remarks, the chairman of the event, Jean Chiazor Anishere, SAN, called for a strategic and coordinated approach in the effort to unlock the potential of the blue economy. Anishere, who is President, Women in Maritime Africa, added that such measures must take into account the unique needs and challenges of our coastal communities. In his remarks, Special Guest of Honour at the lecture and Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the Federal Government launched the National Digital Economy 2020-2030 to drive the economy in a way it would advance the benefits of the blue economy. Danbatta who was represented by the Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Reuben Muoka, revealed that 90 percent of the rural population would enjoy fluid internet usage by the year 2025. Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, Senior Partner, AOL, and a maritime legal expert, urged the management of Centre for Financial Journalism to ensure that deliberations at the lecture are conveyed to the incoming Nigerian government in a manner of agenda-setting.