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.