Stakeholders, Gov’t must collaborate to Protect Oceans- NIOMR Boss

Dr Gbola Akande
  • As Amaechi says S-East states included in the $5.8bn loan rail projects

Relevant stakeholders must collaborate with the Nigerian Government on protection and promotion of the oceans, if the citizens’ hope of optimising its accruable benefits would be timely attained.

The Executive Director of the Nigerian Institute for Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR), Dr Gbola Akande indicated this on Thursday during a Symposium organised by NIOMR to mark the 2017 World Oceans Day with the theme: “Our Oceans, Our Future’’.

“Life on earth depends on the oceans and a healthy ocean is central to human existence” he posited, noting that the major source of human proteins is actually the oceans.

“Oceans serve as the world’s largest source of protein, feeding over three billion people who depend on the oceans as their primary source of protein.

“Ocean activities employ millions of workers and generates trillions of dollars in the world economy.

“Equally important is the role oceans play in absorbing about 30 per cent of carbon dioxide produced by humans, thereby buffeting the impact of global warming.

“And today, the ocean is under tremendous pressure from human activity, including unsustainable and illegal fishing, marine pollution and climate- related impact,’’ he stated, drawing attention to unsustainable and illegal fishing as a global problem that threatened ocean ecosystems and sustainable fisheries.

He lamented that though the oceans had provided immense blessings to inhabitants on the land, the good gesture had not been reciprocated, as he noted that for marine pollution, majority of which come from land- based sources had reached alarming levels with about 13,000 pieces of plastics litter to be found on every square kilometer of the ocean.

Akande who believed that the physical impact of climate change could be seen in the fish migration and oceanic acidification, also observed that with these negative impacts on the oceans, there was now an urgent need for people to come together and protect the oceans.

According to him, the reason is that the oceans are our common heritage and the oceans are absolutely essential for life.

Akande said that not only food, but the oxygen and weather cycles of the planets all depended on the oceans.

Dr Femi Oyediran, an environmental management expert, said that the ocean’s resources could be effectively managed to pull the country out of recession.

According to him, there are lots of opportunities in the oceans that can help our national development, but individuals are exploiting them to the detriment of the nation.

Oyediran posited that the World Oceans Day celebration was a timely clarion call on governments to put laws and enforcement mechanisms together to gain from ocean resources in a sustainable way.

In the meantime, Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, yesterday, debunked the allegation of non-inclusion of South-East states in the rail line projects of the railway networks across the country for which $5.8 billion loan is being sought from China.

Amaechi, who spoke during the hearing organised by the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign debts also explained the technicalities of the rail-line project before the loan request from the China Exim Bank can get the approval of the lawmakers.

The minister further explained that former presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan had already applied for the loan while the present administration wants to implement it.

According to the minister, “I do not know where the information that the South East States were excluded in the rail projects is coming from.”

Amaechi also explained that the two major rail projects of the Federal Government are  the coastal rail project, which is from Lagos to Calabar traversing Lagos-Ore-Benin City-Sapele-Warri-Yenegoa with sidings to Otuoke, Port Harcourt, Aba, Uyo, Calabar and branch line from Benin-City, Abudu, Onitsha including Onitsha rail bridge.

He said: “There is the Lagos-Kano rail project, which traverses Lagos-Abeokuta, Ibadan, Osogbo, Ilorin, Jebba, Minna, Kaduna, Zaria, Kano with branch line from Minna and Abuja and Abuja/Kaduna.

“There is also the coastal rail project from Lagos-Calabar, which traverses Lagos-Sagamu-Ore-Benin City-Sapele-Warri-Yenagoa. “The coastal rail line already has its route alignment passing through Aba in Abia State and Onitsha in Anambra State, both of which are in the South East geopolitical zone.”

The minister debunked the allegation of non- inclusion of the South-East states against the argument of Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia South) who resolved that the loan would not be considered except all regions were carried along in the utilisation of the loan.

He said: “The loan being a Federal Government loan would be paid by all sections of the country. Therefore, every section of the country should be taken into consideration. For the railway project to have meaningful impact on the development of the country, it should cover all parts of the country.”

While agreeing with Abaribe’s argument that there was no reason why the South-East should be excluded from the rail project, since it would be part of the repayment, Amaechi stated that it would be wrong for anybody to say that the South-East states were not included in the rail-line projects.

Chairman of the Senate Committee on Local and Foreign Debts, Senator Shehu Sani told the minister that he was invited to explain the technical details of the rail-line project, which he said the Minister of Finance, Mrs Kemi Adeosun, could not answer due to the technicalities involved. Sani said the minister’s explanation would assist the senate to take decision on the loan request.

Additional report from Vanguard