A maritime guru, Major Henry Ajetunmobi (rtd) at the weekend advised the Federal Government to tackle basic industry disconnects, energize the policy on Public Private Partnership (PPP) to enable Nigeria evolve a maritime industry capable of eliminating poverty.
Ajetunmobi, who is an Executive Director, SIFAX Haulage & Logistics Company, stated this in a keynote address he delivered at the 2nd Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Lecture held at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) Main Auditorium with the theme: Developing Critical Port Infrastructure Through Public Private Partnership.
Pointing out that number of factors have pre-dispose Nigeria’s seaports to emerge as the preferred ports in the sub-region, he wondered why the dream of emerging the continental market leader has remained a mirage, noting that the nation is extensively blessed with a natural maritime endowment base comprising a coastline of over 800kms, an Exclusive Economic Zone of over 200 nautical miles, with potentials to accelerate Nigeria’s economic development beyond its crude oil revenue earnings; a vast inland waterways resource estimated at nearly 3,000kms, comprising over 50 rivers, that can support a vibrant intra-regional trade; as well as coastline corridors of the gulf of Guinea and the Bight of Benin, with 8 of her 36 states having littoral status, with capacity ability to generate huge indigenous tonnage and capacity.
“The maritime industry In Nigeria and elsewhere is a veritable engine of growth of national economic development and its transformation agenda.
“It is a sector that, more than most, can be a notable contributor to efforts at poverty reduction, creation of wealth, promotion of skills acquisition and encouragement of entrepreneurship. The sector can, if seriously harnessed and exploited, contribute very significantly to the growth of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP) and eliminate the nation’s unsustainable over-reliance on petroleum as Nigeria’s major revenue earner.
“Many industry watchers are however baffled that despite these intimidating factsheets, there’s still a major disconnect. With its population, market and economy, Nigeria, since independence, has remained unchallenged as the biggest importer and exporter in the sub-region. Her cargo throughput, inclusive of oil and gas, far outstrips those of other seaports in the sub-region put together. How is it that the ports in smaller neighbouring countries pose such a serious challenge to the emergence of Nigerian seaports as the leading ports in the sub-region, a preferred choice of destination for cargoes bound for the sub-region?
“How do we make the Nigerian maritime industry a stronger catalyst of growth of the nation’s economy?
He consequently answered the same question he posed, stressing that the solution lies in Nigerians changing the attitude by which things are done, while Government energizes the PPP policy, in stabilizing policies, as investors and investments cannot be sustained in a regime of constant policy somersault.
Ajetunmobi stressed the need for port infrastructure uplifting, defining port infrastructure as an umbrella term that covers “all those activities and facilities that support and enhance the maritime transport sector, making it efficient, productive, safe and environmentally friendly, reinforced by an effective regulatory framework – all combined to make the sector deliver on its fundamental objectives”.
Port infrastructure is broadly considered to include: Ports, terminals, cargo handling equipment; Channels and harbours; Warehouses; and Ports access roads, whether tolled or non-tolled, including tunnels, bridges etc.
He stressed the need for serious attention on Intermodal transport involving rail and roads interfacing with ships and badges; and Utilities, which include electricity supply, water, wastewater, ICT (Information Communication Technology), Deep seaport etc.