From Anthony Nwachukwu and Chinwe Ibe, Lagos
Gains recorded by the Federal Government’s concessioning of port facilities and services about 12 years ago are being undermined by security challenges in the maritime industry, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr. Boss Mustapha, has said.
Mustapha identified the gains as including massive job creation by the private operators who have “employed over 48,000 Nigerians against a little over 14,000 before the policy shift.”
The SGF, who spoke in Lagos on Tuesday at the 2018 World Maritime Day celebration, listed the opportunities created by the ports reforms as improvement in warehousing, cargo handling, delivery and documentation, among others, and stressed the need to consolidate on the gains.
Speaking on the theme: “IMO@70, Our Heritage: Better Shipping For A Better Future,” Mustapha regretted that the achievements notwithstanding, the sector globally was still under stress from such criminalities as piracy, sea robbery, arms proliferation and terrorism, crude oil theft, illegal and unregulated fishing in the Gulf of Guinea and Nigeria’s territorial waters.
Mustapha, who was represented by the Minister of State for Works, Power and Housing, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, said that consequently, “the gains recorded via dredging, amnesty and port concession exercises in Nigeria nosedived, thus compelling some foreign shipping companies to request government’s approval to enter Nigeria’s territorial waters with armed security personnel on board.”
However, “like the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg, the maritime industry must be protected to attract foreign investors and also preserve Nigeria’s territorial integrity,” therefore, a contract for the Integrated National Security and Water Protection Infrastructure in Nigeria under the Deep Blue Project has been awarded to provide security infrastructure and training of personnel to protect Nigeria’s maritime domain.
“It is envisaged that this project will comprehensively address the emerging cases of insecurity in the maritime industry and restore investors’ confidence,” he said.
Similarly, the Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, said that concerted efforts were being made to strengthen the institutional capabilities of agencies responsible for providing maritime security in the nation’s domain and around the Gulf of Guinea.
According to him, “statistics show a total freight cost estimate of between $5 billion and $6 billion annually, while the maritime component of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is worth an estimated $8 billion, alongside seaborne transportation, oceanic extractive resource exploitation and export processing zones.
“For effective contribution of shipping activities to the development of Nigeria’s economy, there is urgent need to curb and combat these illegal maritime activities in our waters as these crimes continue to constitute impediments to economic development,” he said.