Trawling Companies Rue Order To Vacate Kirikiri Lighter Terminals
Following the quit notice given fishing trawlers using the KiriKiri Lighter Terminals, a strategic part of the Agriculture sector responsible for the export of fish and shrimps, DAVID OGAH and FABIAN ODUM report the intrigues and politics behind the trawlers’ predicament.
ALL is not calm at the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal (KLT) 2, the home of fishing trawlers (and Nigerian Trawler Owners Association, (NITOA), as a quit notice served by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) hangs on their head.
Reason for the notice to the fishing mariners, is that NPA plans to allocate the KLT 1 and 2 to Maritime Operators of Containers.
The General Manager (GM), in-charge of Monitoring and Compliance at the Nigerian Ports Authority, Joshua Asanga, told The Guardian that the trawlers will be relocated to Kirikiri Lighter Terminal 1 since the government is planning to use their present location, at Terminal 2 as wholly for port terminal.
According to him, although government had originally reserved the place for the commercial fishermen, the new focus and direction is now to concession the place for port terminal operations.
He said government intended to provide the fishermen land based services in their new location, adding that those services was meant to bring down their cost of operations on the long run.
Acting under the umbrella of the Fisheries Society of Nigeria (FISON), an organisation established for the purpose of enhancing the development of the Nigerian fisheries industry and members’ welfare, Dr. Olajide Ayinla, who is national President made plea to the Federal Government to intervene.
On the strength that NITOA and the Nigerian Fisheries Forum (NFF) are affiliate members of the Society, and in defence of the sector, Ayinla appealed to Government that it conceded KLT 1 and 2 to the Federal Department of Fisheries (FDF) as a dedicated Centralised Fishing Terminal and Harbour complex, particularly for Tuna Fishing vessels and other categories of fishing vessels on behalf of all the entire fishing companies in the country.
He affirmed that the allocation of the property was properly publicised in an official gazatte.
According to a release by the Society, “The main objective for the allocated concession done by Government in the 1970s was to develop a Tuna Fishing Industry, which was very important for Nigeria to diversify her economy, even in view of the downward trend in oil industry now. Ghana, a West African neighbour, has developed its Tuna fisheries with a labour force of three million people employed.”
It noted that of the 34 fish trawling companies operating in the country within the last decade, only four remain in business. The rest 30 companies have relocated to other neighbouring West African countries, where they have better fishing and investment environment.
Former President, NITOA, Mrs. Margaret Orakusi described the order on the trawler owners to quit their present location as unfortunate, even as she insisted that commercial fishing was as important as any other sector, in terms of revenue generation.
“This is an industry that is two ministries, Transport and Ministry of Agriculture and if we are serious about growing the fishing industry, certain infrastructure must be provided. Apart from feeding and trading, the sector offers employment and it used to be the second non-oil revenue generating industry.
There are schools offering fisheries; who is going to employ them when they finish? We are talking about diversifying the economy.
According to her, their present location was reserved by the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo to be used as international fishing terminal, hence it could not be handed over, along other port terminals, to private concerns eight years ago.
MINISTER of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, in response to enquiries from The Guardian, through his Special Assistant on Media and Strategy, Dr. Olukayode Oyeleye revealed that NITOA officially intimated the Ministry in May, 2013 about the planned concessioning of KLT 1 and 2 by the NPA. The Minister assured, at the time, that “no fishing company would be forced to vacate the terminals, which had been selected as the site for the dedicated Lagos Fisheries Terminal Project.”
Since the trawlers’ matter lies between NPA, the Federal Ministry of Transport and Federal Ministry of Agriculture, it has become an inter-ministerial case, with the Presidency expected to play a decisive role in the resolution.
So far, The Guardian gathered the terminals are up for grabs by the highest bidder, having been advertised by the Bureau for Public Entreprise (BPE) recently.
For now, it does not appear the trawlers know what to expect from NPA, needs to prepare a new place for the fishing companies, fitted with the necessary infrastructure. With the falling oil prices and devalued naira, job losses are imminent in the fisheries sub-sector, as with others, especially as this displacement would not come without extra cost.
In making a case for the non-eviction of NITOA, the Agric Minister argued that if KLT1 had been designated as fishing terminal, the NPA should put in place necessary infrastructures before any relocation and recovery of possession of the current jetties from fishing operators.
The Ministry further expressed its objection to such eviction saying that the socio-economic contribution of the fishing industry to the national economy would be seriously hindered, especially the export of shrimp and fish products (decreased foreign exchange earnings).
Other grounds for rejecting the eviction order include: that KLT 2 by its design cannot take heavy vessels due to the shallow depth of the waterfront, hence the designation for fishing trawling, that fishing trawler operators need the waterfront to berth their vessels, as they have continuously maintained / regularly dredged at their own cost over the years; that the planned concession will discourage further investment in the industrial fishing business and impede the government’s agricultural transformation agenda; that the planned concession will definitely impact negatively on the operations of fishing trawler operators.
The plans of government for the industry, particularly local content development will not be achieved; that there appears to be no definite and clear information on alternative plans by the NPA for the fishing industry.
Relocating operators to a new location has some cost implications as well as inconveniences (time factor). Is the NPA prepared to meet the costs?
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