As stakeholders look up to Oyetola to save N7tr maritime industry
With the creation of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy after 30 years of advocacy, Adegboyega Oyetola , the pioneer minister, will need to hit the ground running to transform the sector, ADAKU ONYENUCHEYA writes.
As the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, commences his official duties at the ministry’s headquarters following his inauguration by President Bola Tinubu, stakeholders are expecting a turnaround in the maritime industry to enable the sector to contribute, at least, an estimated N7 trillion to public revenue.
Oyetola, in his inaugural speech, said he was excited to contribute to the sustainable development of the maritime sector to unlock the immense potential of the blue economy
He also expressed commitment to harnessing the power of innovation, collaboration and responsible management to drive the maritime sector towards greater heights.
“This appointment comes with an immense duty to our people, our environment and our future generations. Together with a dedicated staff of the Ministry and in partnership with critical stakeholders from various sectors, I am eager to drive positive change, create jobs, protect our marine environment and ensure sustainable prosperity for all. Now is the time to work hand in hand to usher in an era of growth, innovation, and sustainable progress for Nigeria’s marine and blue economy,” he said.
For over 30 years, the maritime community had advocated the creation of a separate ministry to oversee the affairs of the maritime sector that has been ignored by past administrations, thereby making the sector bleed with the myriad of challenges that plagued it.
The maritime sector has been bedeviled by poor infrastructure, poor policy implementation, inadequate manpower capacity, poor shipping industry, lack of automation causing delays in cargo clearance, unsafe inland waterways for movement of persons and goods, infiltration of foreigners displacing, lack of support for local contents, lack of recognition of nation’s seafarers, extortion, multiple taxation, insecurity among other challenges.
The creation of the new ministry has brought relief to the nation’s maritime community, who are hopeful that the challenges that have caused the country and businesses huge losses will be resolved within four years of the present administration.
A source from the Federal Ministry of Transportation, who is part of the Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, said agencies that will be under the new ministry are those involved in maritime operations.
He listed them to include, Nigeria Port Authority (NPA), Nigeria Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Shipping Council (NSC), National Inland Waterways Agency, Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) and Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarding in Nigeria (CRFFN).
Stakeholders in the maritime industry have listed issues the minister is expected to address in his four years in office.
Maritime lawyer and pioneer President of Nigeria Chamber of Shipping, Dr Olisa Agbakoba, said the creation of the new ministry could position Nigeria as a global maritime hub and drive economic growth.
Agbakoba, who is also the former President of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), said the maritime sector holds greater promise than the petroleum industry and could contribute substantially to public revenue.
“The maritime sector has been a distinctly ignored sector of our economy. This has been a major omission. Nigeria is a maritime nation and must advance policy issues to tap into the massive economic opportunities.
“This is a sector that will, with proper direction of government, easily contribute at least N7 trillion to the public revenue. Key aspects of our maritime policy must focus on enforcement of Cabotage legislation, ports development, ocean governance and the blue economy in addition to many aspects of this incredibly wealthy sector. We look forward to robust policies by the government.” he said.
The General-Secretary of the Association of Bonded Terminal Operators of Nigeria, Haruna Omolajomo, urged the new minister to engage with stakeholders in the different sub-sectors of the maritime industry to address the issues in the maritime sector.
Omolajomo urged Tunji-Ojo to look into local content, adding that most of the indigenous operators are operating under 10 per cent capacity.
He said the foreigners are penetrating extremely high in industry and benefiting much more than citizens.
He said allowing local content to operate fully will reduce unemployment, create more jobs and boost the economy.
Omolajomo also pointed out the implementation of conscious policies and laws at the National Assembly where it will be stated clearly that for any consignment that comes into Nigeria, the local operators should have a minimum of 30 per cent of whatever comes into the country.
He said the minister should ensure barge operations and intermodal transport systems in the industry are encouraged.
Omolajomo also urged the minister to ensure infrastructure at the ports is addressed, especially the roads for the movement of haulage trucks from the ports.
The President of the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES), Israel Obadan, called for a policy ensuring manpower development in the maritime industry.
Obadan tasked the government to be purposeful in such a policy aimed at meeting the increasing manpower needs of the industry as there is no concrete maritime manpower development policy that is put in place by the government.
The Public Relations officer, Tin-Can Island chapter of the Association of Nigerian Licenced Customs Agents (ANLCA), Onome Monije, called for synergy among the Federal Ministry of Finance, Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) and the newly created Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy to create friendly government policies that will boost maritime businesses in the country.
Monije urged Oyetola to see to the digitalisation and automation of the nation’s seaports to ensure efficient and effective cargo clearance and evacuation.
The Vice Chairman of Business Action Against Corruption (BAAC) Integrity Alliance, Lagos, Jonathan Nicol, said the minister of the new ministry has a big load of work to do as the maritime MDAs under the ministry of transportation will be moved to it to oversee their affairs.
He said the ministry is a practitioner’s domain that requires maritime technocrats to understand the intrigues of shipping.
According to him, 80 per cent of the maritime problems are domiciled in the Ministry of Transportation, noting that, now all of that will come to this new minister who doesn’t know about maritime issues.
Nicol urges stakeholders to work together to ensure the success of the new ministry.
Former member of the Presidential Committee on Destination Inspection and Ministerial Committee on Fiscal Policy and Import Clearance Procedure, Lucky Amiwero, said having the two ministries is semantic as they are related.
He said there is going to be a conflict with time, except their portfolios and scope of work are clearly defined.
“Unless you say the transport ministry will only be limited to railway and roads because port development and other issues that have to do with international trade are maritime concerns. It depends on how the government is going to share the portfolios among them. The truth about it is that there is going to be a conflict with time, except their portfolios and scope of work are clearly defined,” he said.
Amiwero, who is also the president of the National Council of Managing Directors of Licensed Customs Agents (NCMDLCA), said he hopes that the functions of the two ministries will not be like those with Federal and State ministers.
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