Nigeria not utilising its huge potentials in maritime sector- Agbakoba

...Says proper application of cabotage can generate N4 trl revenue

Dr. Olisa Agbakoba

Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, a former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, has decried the nation’s lacklustre approach to putting into proper use huge economic potentials embedded in its maritime industry.

Agbakoba told newsmen in an interview during a focus group meeting organised by the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping in Lagos that the nation’s maritime industry could fetch the economy thousands of jobs and make as much as seven trillion Naira in revenue for government.  

He, however, noted that government must first realise how big the sector is, without which there wouldn’t be any progress.

“The maritime industry can generate seven trillion Naira because of its big potential. And as you know, Nigeria is challenged in terms of fiscal responsibilities, unemployment and we have to create jobs.

“If maritime is not even mentioned at government Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP), it is not mentioned in vision 2020, then you can imagine. So, that is what we are suffering. And the problem with shipping is that it is invisible. It is not like a bank that you will see the building,” he said.

He added that with the proper application of the cabotage “Nigeria can earn as much four trillion in revenue.”

Agbakoba also called attention to the need for a more robust office in government handling various areas of shipping, similar to the structure of the United Kingdom.

He said: “The highest-level player in government that oversees shipping is the Director of Maritime Services. It is way too low. It is in a small department. We need an integrated ministry of transport; roads, rail, shipping and aviation. Just like in the United Kingdom where the Secretary for transportation has four under-secretaries, each of them running a sector.”

Agbakoba  charged government to wake up to the losses the nation  suffers when foreigners dominate her coastal trade and make much more benefits from ancillary business from insurance, shipping, law and banking.

“When I was reading all the various laws relating to cargo movement, let us just take Bonga; When the Nigerian government signs a Production Sharing Contract( PSC)with an International Oil Company(IOC), all they see is a barrel of oil. They don’t see the 34 by-products like shipping, insurance, banking and law.

“That is why we are fighting for Freight On Board(FOB) to be scrapped for us to have the Cost Insurance and Freight(CIF). So, the IOCs are happy with what is currently happening. Who carries our crude? No Nigerian is carrying crude. That is the problem. We gave a procurement policy that disfigures Nigerians.

“So, if you just talk about crude procurement and cargo movement, you are looking at about 100 vessels and work. So, we need to have a trade policy that takes into account economic nationalism. 

"Honestly, from the presentations here, you can see that the potential of the industry is so huge. Any area you lean, is so huge. But, Ghana is now taking over from Nigeria as the hub, even in the aviation sector.

"Togo is now the hub for Emirates. They generate flights from Togo straight into New York. So, how is it that 180 million people led by a government, can’t see the potential, and yet we talk about poverty. That is what burgles the mind. 

"The problem is, is the government showing enough interest? Government has to create the enabling environment," he said. 

Agbakoba wants what he describes as “economic nationalism” to protect local operators in the sector and enable the nation earn more revenue.