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Experts advise on new status to better maritime sector in Nigeria

Otunba Kunle Folarin, Chairman, Ports Consultative Council
Maritime Expert  and Chairman, Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin has
observed that neither the Federal Government, nor the Nigerian people would
attract optimum benefits, until the nation’s maritime industry is separated
from the transportation sector and run as a separate and distinct  entity.

The PCC Chairman
highlighted this in Lagos on Tuesday, just as the immediate past National
President, Association of Nigerian License Customs Agents  (ANLCA), Prince
Olayiwola Shittu, pleaded with the Presidency not to remain blinded by the fast
waning Dollars from crude oil, but timely provide now, new life and wings to
the Maritime Industry sub-sector.
Pointing out that till
date, the country had yet derived desired dividends from its maritime and
shipping endowments, Otunba Kunle Folarin wondered why Government had delayed
the creation of the Maritime/ Shipping Ministry, which would have technically
solved the challenges of employment and youth restiveness, when it could create
the Ministry of Aviation and Water Resources, both of which returns could not
deliver what the Maritime is delivering, even in its ‘
lackluster‘ state!
“The only answer is to
make the maritime industry a stand alone institution. That is when, it will
truly start to develop.
“One of the ways to
show relevance is by being visible in the economy. It is only until
recently, that people in the port, as stakeholders have tried to showcase areas
of Maritime relevance.
“Until relevance is
emphasised, nobody will take you seriously. It is a straight forward issue,
when the relevance is not emphasised or shown, nobody will take you seriously.
“For instance, why do
you have a Ministry of water resources when you don’t even have the domestic
water? But then, you are emphasizing it! And gradually they are heading
somewhere. Now, who is in charge of all that? 
“So, you have a
minister of water resources, for water that is for domestic use, but there is
none for ‘water resources’ that is for transportation? Which one have you
emphasised?” wondered Otunba, stressing that any natural endowment that
is not properly appreciated and harnessed, would gradually depreciate.
“As long as we are
running our maritime industry in this way, in ways that shows the little value
we put on it, we will continue to attract inadequacy of
benefits.
“Until recently the
Nigerian Bureau of Statistics was even isolating the GDP of transport sector.
The GDP of transport, which is the productivity status of transportation in the
economy was even highlighted haphazardly. It was not reflected in the GDP. So,
how can the Central Bank even know your contribution?
Otunba Kunle Folarin
insisted that if the nation’s maritime/ Shipping industry must yield optimally,
it must also first enjoy a ‘recognition’ that begins with the CBN, as well as
the Federal Government, stressing that body language also matters.
“Recognition for
relevance starts from money; it starts from the Central Bank. It was the CBN
that developed agriculture, by saying to the commercial banks: ‘you must treat agric
as a preferred sector!’
“Secondly, you
must allocate so much percentage of  your funds to develop
agriculture. 
“You must give
agricultural loans to people, to a maximum of so and so percent. That is a
total recognition and with that also, the relevance of agriculture in the
economy blossomed!
Today, some call it
preferred sector; and some call it the real sector. 
“So, agriculture got
to where it is today, after the authorities directed: ‘you must give a
percentage of your financial receipts  to develop agriculture’ and that
‘loans must be issued at certain level’. 
“But for us in
Nigeria, the cargo transport business has so far, remained at the kindergarten
level; and would remain there in the primary sense, until the CBN and the
Government recognize the relevance of transport”, he explained further.

He said that  Government was wandering aimlessly solving the problem of
generating foreign exchange, creating multiple job opportunities and ending
youth restiveness, while neglecting the maritime industry, which remains a
single, simple tool for achieving them, going by huge advantage Nigeria enjoys
divinely. 
Speaking in the same vein,
an industry watcher, Samuel Egbewole blamed the woes of the industry to
Government’s consistent putting of square pegs in round holes, and noting
sadly, that the current Minister of Transportation had finally reduced the
industry to a Ministry of Railway!
“When you a make a man
oversees two or three portfolios, the natural tendency is for him to grab the
one he considers easiest and run with it! Is that not what has happened with
the Ministry of Power, Works and Housing? 
“There is no foreman
in the system any longer. The present Transportation Minister has sadly turned
the entire thing into a Ministry for railway priority. Everything is either
about railway; or it is nothing!
“Everyone, including
even the President knows his heart is for the railways; but more so, at the
expense of shipping and the Maritime Industry”, Egbewole stated, urging
President Muhammadu Buhari to direct that maritime be given a separate
ministry, if the dream of a national fleet would not remain a mirage. 
“Aviation is today
better run, because it is standing alone. Aviation is recognised because it
stands alone. It means whoever Mr. President puts there must wake up and think
of what next to do, at least, to look busy. But when you run after the cheaper,
less complex portfolio on daily basis, only the few informed would know that
other mandates are suffering!”, he explained further, asking, “if you
are in doubt, tell me what the Government has achieved in the maritime industry
on the basis of basis of the Ministry’s sole effort.
Meanwhile, the immediate
past National President of ANLCA, Prince Olayiwola Shittu has observed that a
major fallout of the crude oil money had been the non diversification of the
economy. 
He therefore stresses the
need for President Buhari to give the diversification agenda a practical
meaning by bringing more attention to the Nigerian Maritime industry.
It would be recalled that
several authorities in the maritime industry, including Senior Advocate
Agbakoba, have calculated that Nigeria is annually losing over N5
trillion as a
result of non performance of the nation’s shipping sector.

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