Critical stakeholders in the maritime industry who gathered to celebrate the 2016 African Day of the Seas and Oceans on Monday in Lagos, shared the importance of the need for stakeholders to play their shared responsibility in the governance of the marine asset.
The Minister of Transportation, Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, said proper governance of the seas and oceans would ensure a sustainable economic benefit, driving trade in a safe, secure and clean environment.
Represented by the Director, Maritime Safety and Security, Mr Mohammed Dauda, the minister said the code of conduct signed by the Heads of Government of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) with the Economic Community of Central African States(ECCAS) and the Gulf of Guinea will strengthen the effort in the fight against sea piracy, sea robbery, illegal fishing activities in the maritime domain.
According to him, this should serve the purpose for such a gathering that hopes to further the benefit of the marine resources in Africa.
“The essence is to understand the shared responsibility from policy directions and everybody do their beats to achieve the desired state.
“We should ask how we can make our oceans clean and eliminate sea piracy and stop dumping waste in the waters and stop illegal fishing and develop two way use of our sea ports.
“Effort through NIMASA, the Nigerian Navy, the Airforce, Police to secure the marine domain and ensure sanctions to offenders is also key and sustained.”
He said these efforts were to encourage export trade and government is doing everything to stop pipeline vandalism in its bid to keep the environment clean and safe.
He underscored the importance of the seas and oceans with regards to providing food(fish) and serving as backbone to international trade, and called for its maintenance with the aim of sustaining the benefits for generations to come.
“ This means the gathering should be about how we can care for our seas and oceans, how we can effectively govern our maritime domain, not only to maximize the opportunities, but also to make it cleaner and safer for all.”
He noted that the Federal Government had embarked on massive development of rail lines to bridge the gaps that had hindered smooth logistics to link the roads to the nation’s seaports.
Speaking, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) said the nation should take advantage of the opportunities offered by the ‘blue economy’ and use what it contributes to human development in an economical and environmentally-sustainable way.
He said that with the recognition, by the African Union, of the potentials of the sea and ocean resources for Africa’s development and growth, the decade of African seas and oceans “Should bring about a shift in perspectives that recognize the fact that our oceans and seas are economic infrastructure.”
“What this simply means is that there should be increase in investment to enhance the productive capacity of the economy. As a continent we need to urgently restore the present resources and develop others that are under-utilised,” Peterside said.
He, however, called for a recognition of the fact that while the ocean resources are there to develop the continent, there is need to address the marine challenges that comprise Africa’s ability to fully explore the resources beneficially.
According to Peterside, the challenges include marine domain security challenges and ocean governance, which includes fishing, maritime economic growth, migration and trafficking, adding the important for all stakeholders to take on their responsibility.
The Chief of Naval Staff(CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok Ibas Ette, pledged the continued commitment of the Nigerian Navy to the security of the maritime domain and collaboration with key agencies of government to ensure that operations in the sector are done in a safe and secure environment.
Represented by Rear Admiral Adeniyi Oshinowo, the CNS said that during the four year process of developing the AIMS Strategy, Nigerian Navy was fully involved and made significant contribution to the policy implementation and remains a key driver of one of the existing framework and ongoing development of the sector.
Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Barrister Hassan Bello, called for a holistic approach to addressing the many thorny issues posing challenges in the sector, even as the continent has recognised the economic potential of the seas and oceans.
He said that it was only in that capacity that the challenges of piracy, sea robbery, illegal fishing and unwholesome maritime activities could be tamed, as it is done in other regions of the world.
The Executive Secretary expressed the resolve of the Council to partner with other agencies and operators in pushing for the best way forward in harnessing the seas and oceans resources for the sustainable economic benefit of Nigeria.
He also highlighted the effort of the council in collaboration with the Nigerian Universities Commission to ensure that the Admiralty Law is taught in the Law departments in Nigerian Universities.
“There lies a whole body of laws, the Admiralty Law, which owes its existence to this vast oceans and recently the Nigerian Shippers Council and the National Universities Commission collaborated to ensure that this body of law is taught in Nigerian Universities.”
On the part of the National Inland Waterways Authority(NIWA), the Managing Director, Mr Boss Mustapha, said the role of the inland waterways remained huge and vital to the attainment of the AU goals with respect to the economic resources provided by the seas and oceans.
Represented by Mr Muazu Sambo, the Lagos Area Manager, NIWA, Mustapha said it was imperative for the maritime sector to optimize the opportunities offered by the seas and oceans, considering that 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports and about 80 per cent world trade are conducted by sea as the important means of transportation.
He noted that the water transport is the safest and environmentally- friendly and the cheapest means of transporting large cargo, stating that cargo that a single barge would carry would require 225 cars or 870 rail tracks to transport same.
He said the time was right for private investments in the sector, bearing in mind the efforts of NIWA between 2009-2013 to overseeing the maintenance dredging from Warri in Delta State to Baro in Niger State.
He said: “With the sea in Warri and Port Harcourt and River Ports in Onitsha , Oguta and Baro, the environment is right for the private sector to key into this critical link of the economy participate in the critical part of the economy.
“This will generate big revenue for government in addition to promotion of trade and commerce, Job opportunities, institutional development and provision of tourism.”
He said NIWA would continue to engage in stakeholder discussion to work out strategies and business modalities to get the best of the resources for the nation’s economic development away from the oil and gas.
The stakeholders had panel discussions touching on all areas of the sector and how to make the best use of the resources from the ‘Blue Economy.’