NIMASA, Ondo State to develop waterways

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As Association seeks partnership with Nigerian Trade Office to boost SMEs’ export***

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the Ondo State Government agreed on Thursday to collaborate in the business of developing the waterways in the state.

The Ondo State Governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu indicated this in Akure, while hosting a NIMASA delegation, led by Executive Director (Operations), Rotimi Fasakin, noting that the waterways, if harnessed, could serve as another major means of travelling in Nigeria, in addition to creating new employment opportunities.

But, Akeredolu expressed his sadness with the undue neglect of waterways in Nigeria, particularly the one in Ondo State, stressing that they had suffered serious neglect, and hence, mostly clogged with water hyacinth. He therefore urged that something should be urgently done to clean them.

“When the water hyacinth is properly harvested, it could be used for something else, even for biogas,” he said, stressing also, the need to have a proper department for maritime studies.

“Most boats in our coastal areas were built by our people. They have mastered that art, they have skills and we can tap into it,” he said.

Earlier, the NIMASA Executive Director (Operations), Rotimi Fasakin had indicated that the visit was to leverage on the state’s efforts to make the waterways pollution-free.

Fasakin said the visit was also to sensitise people in the riverside areas on security and adequate management of maritime space.

He therefore promised to work on the possibility of making the Araromi-Lagos route a reality so as to enhance transportation on the waterways.

“All these are geared toward making our impact felt in a larger dimension.

“Ondo State constitutes a large portion of Nigeria’s expansive coastline, so it’s important that the state should be able to exploit the resources of the marine environment,” he said further.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (NASMEs) has urged the authorities to support the Nigerian Office for Trade Negotiation (NOTIN), if it there is a genuine desire to increase the export capacity of Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Nigeria.

The body’s National Vice President, North Central, Mr Auwal Ibrahim stated this in Abuja on Thursday when he led a delegation on a courtesy call on Nigeria’s Chief Trade Negotiator, Mr Chiedu Osakwe.

Ibrahim said the aim of the visit was to look at trade at national and regional levels and how it affected SMEs in Nigeria.

He said the partnership with the trade office would link SMEs with various government programmes.

“We are here to see how SMEs will be linked up with various government programmes and how this programme will benefit the lives of our members in accessing finance and open up access to international market.

“This will also ensure access to market and compliance with global standard which will help the Nigerian economy because no country can survive on its own economically,’’ he said.

Ibrahim explained that the visit was also to have a better insight into the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (ACFTA) and how the association would benefit from the agreement.

ACFTA is part of Africa’s plan to promote intra and African trade through trade liberalisation policies as well as remove business and import restrictions within the continent.

Responding, the Chief Negotiator Osakwe said “we are deepening our conservation and widening our scope in expanding the Nigerian economy.’’

“In 2017, Nigeria was given the position to chair the negotiation of the ACFTA,’’ he said, adding that Nigeria “has always played a critical role in African economic integration.’’

Osakwe said partnering NASMEs would expose the association to government programmes that would benefit both their productivity level and market access.

The President, Muhammadu Buhari had declined accent to the ACFTA on the bases of inadequate consultation on the side of Nigerian trade office.

Osakwe, however, said consultation was presently ongoing to fill the gap.

“All the industry groups have been consulting. We must see the consultation as ongoing, not just for the purpose of having the agreement signed,’’ he stated.

Osakwe urged the association to nominate a member to join in the negotiation.