Jamoh charts path to ‘harnessing Nigeria’s maritime assets’

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For the nation’s maritime sector, the launch of the book, Harnessing Nigeria’s Maritime Assets, Past, Present & Future, by Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, could not have come at a better time, when the economy is undergoing diversification and rejuvenation.

Jamoh can be best described as an encyclopaedia of the maritime industry. He has over 25 years of public service experience, and currently, is the executive director, Finance and Administration, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).

He has been involved in policy implementation that has turned around the fortunes of the maritime industry today, though, in this book, he believes the nation has still not fully harnessed its maritime potential.

The book, with 235 pages and seven chapters, will capture the mind of any patriotic Nigerian, because of the quantum of data available. It is “capable of singlehandedly addressing the nation’s budgetary funding needs.”

The book reveals, “the maritime sector plays an important role in the exploitation, distribution and exportation of Nigeria’s natural and aquatic resources. With a yearly freight cost estimated t be between $5 billion and $6 billion, the maritime component of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is worth an estimated $8 billion, (according to NIMASA’s 2018 Outlook), further reflecting the significance of the sector to the country’s overall economy.

“The Nigerian maritime industry and its operating environment are massive and vast in terms of their potential for career growth and development. The industry has the capacity to develop professionals in core maritime career lines, allied engineering, actuarial sciences, humanities and ICT which can safely be deployed in ports administration, safety, security and trade, both onshore and offshore. Indeed, The sector is capable of generating N7 trillion annually and 40 million jobs if fully developed.”

The author notes it is rather unfortunate that Nigeria trails far behind many smaller economies in Africa in terms of ports and maritime activities. In fact, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD 2016) Report indicates that Nigeria ranked fourth in the maritime industry in Africa in 2014 by size of yearly quantity of Twenty-foot Equivalent Unit (TEUs).

The book states that various national economic activities depend on or are derived from maritime assets. However, it has become increasingly clear that the potential of Nigeria’s “Blue Economy‟ is far from being fully harnessed.

The author suggests that government agencies such as, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Nigerian Shipper’s Council (NSC), Nigerian Navy (NN) and other active elements of the maritime industry have critical roles to play in optimising the nation’s vast, untapped marine resources, sustain the vibrancy of the industry, enhance human capital participation and ensure capacity building for the success of the industry.

The book also details Nigeria’s Maritime Assets. It reveals that in 2017, it was about 10 times the size the approved 2018 budget of the Federal Government of Nigeria (N9.12 trillion). “It is, therefore, ironic that while the country has continued to grapple with how to fund its huge fiscal and infrastructure deficit, while adequate attention has not been paid to how to fully explore the asset riches in a maritime sector that is potentially capable of singlehandedly addressing the nation’s budgetary funds.”

The author classifies the under-exploited maritime assets as: Coastal Tourism; Fisheries; Irrigation; Hydropower; Shipping; Cabotage; Ship Ownership; Maritime Bank; Legitimate Oil Bunkering; Ship Yard and Ship Repairs; Ship Recyclin; Ship Ownership and Building; Oil and Gas Facilities; Cargo Assets; and Maritime Ancillary Facilities among others.

According to Jamoh, the massive bodies of water, 852km of coastline, as well as inland waterways that connect many states of the federation and the oceans, provide for the space for Nigeria’s maritime assets.

As such, a nation’s physical maritime assets are the coastlines, territorial waters and deep waterways that can support inland water transportation, coastal trade and other port activities.

The book also gives a critical analysis of the core functions of government agencies in the sector, and emphasises the need for holistic institutional frameworks that could aid optimal exploitation of the numerous untapped maritime assets.

Data available in the book also reveal that indigenous participation in the Nigerian maritime sector is abysmally low, hence, the call for strong maritime policy and appreciable strategies to compete favourably with foreign operators’ monopoly.

The figures reveals that the maritime traffic between the year 2004 and 2013 captured a total number of 58,600 vessels calling at Nigerian ports and only 2,465 vessels were handled by indigenous operators through chartered mode and other forms which represent only 4.21 percent of the total performance, while the foreigners had 95.79 percent of the total volume.

It is however worrisome that Nigeria trades on the average between 95- 100million metric tons of seaborne cargoes per annum and the estimated annual freight paid is about $8billion of which more than 90per cent of this is earned by foreign operators.

Jamoh, in the book, does not leave out the need to strengthen the role of the private sector. He states that framework for Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in the maritime security sector is anchored on the consideration that a maritime security PPP could allow a diverse range of domestic, international, public, and private stakeholders to share the cost, expertise and the burden of maritime security.

The author, however, advocates for development of an Integrated Marine Plan for Nigeria. He says: “To harnessing Nigeria’s Maritime Assets in the economic diversification process should involve an Integrated Marine Plan (IMP) in which the government, regulators and operators need to set out a roadmap that has a clear government’s vision, high-level goals and integrated actions across policy, governance and business to enable Nigeria’s marine potential to be realised.

To support the vision and goals, it also identifies eight enablers that are key to creating the conditions for growth and investment that have to be pursued. They are: maritime safety; security and surveillance; clean – green – marine; business development; marketing and promotion; research; knowledge; technology and innovation; capacity; education; training and awareness; infrastructure; international and north/south cooperation. He emphasises, “good governance and maritime safety, security and surveillance of Nigeria’s Maritime Assets are vital to achieving the above vision and goals.”

No doubt, this book is commendable and industry practitioners, stakeholders and students will surely find it a good reference material.