April 16, 2024

Experts call for rehabilitation of infrastructure, implementation of Cabotage laws to enhance trade efficiency in Nigeria’s maritime sector

 

 

Oredola Adeola

 

Maritime industry experts have called for the rehabilitation of infrastructure in Nigeria’s existing ports, installation of the latest technology, investment into the other abandoned/potential ports across the country, and establishment of dry ports and free zones as a way of enhancing domestic and international trade efficiency and driving economic development in the country.

 

This recommendation was part of the highlight of the 3rd edition of the Nigerian Ports and Trade Investment Forum held in Lagos on Wednesday.

 

 

Mrs. Bamidele Seun-Owoola, Chief Executive Officer, Welcome2Africa International, the organiser of the event, in her remark, stated that the investment forum aims to attract more investment, increase the number of shipping companies in Nigeria, revive the life of the ports, and unlock investment access in technology to improve the maritime and trade experience in Nigeria.

 

 

According to her, the Government agencies, Ministries, and the private sectors need strong collaboration to address the infrastructure challenges within Nigeria’s maritime sector to improve regional connectivity and trade.

 

 

She said, “There is a need for operators and stakeholders in Nigeria to improve the domestic maritime industry before considering regional connectivity. We need to first address key infrastructure challenges including lack of multi-modal connectivity, over-reliance on roads, and a fragmented port system before considering trade with Ghana, Rwanda, and other regional and international trade.

 

 

“One major issue that needs to be addressed is infrastructure, and it is important to consider the challenges that come with it within the country and see how we can solve them as they relate to trade.

 

 

“Nigeria has restated its commitment to the blue economy initiative to boost the country’s revenue and become a global trade destination. This initiative aims to foster sustainable economic development, poverty reduction, and the conservation of marine ecosystems and biodiversity. Right now, Nigeria has a potential, but I don’t know if they are using that potential.

 

 

“To bring in more investment, revive the life of our ports, and invest in technology to improve the maritime and trade experience in Nigeria, the Blue Economy Investment Initiative is a comprehensive program that addresses various factors affecting the economy, while also seeking solutions to the challenges.

 

 

 

“One of the key things about this particular event is modernizing the port and reviving existing ports, as well as encouraging investment into ports across the country. Additionally, it is important to shed light on those that have started establishing dry ports and other ports such as the Lagos free zone.

 

 

 

“Modernizing ports is crucial not only for enhancing trade efficiency but also for driving economic development in the nation. Recently, there has been a growing interest in Nigeria for exporting and importing, making it more imperative to address the challenges that exist at the port,” she said.

 

 

 

Captain Alfred Oluwasegun, Anti-piracy Security Team Leader, Trident Group America, in his remark, said that Nigeria has the market, population, strength, and human resources and there is no reason to be competing with Rep of Benin, Ghana, and other countries.

 

 

 

He said, “Our problem in this country is internal and the need to allow investment to strive.  I have seen so many investors here, they will tell you their challenges when they’re coming to Nigeria, because Nigerians have this mentality especially most people in the government are self-interest and is the weakness of the country if the investment is not going to address their pockets, they don’t care about the country.

 

 

 

“Badagry can accommodate more vessels, and we are putting pressure on Apapa when that area can do the same thing. It can accommodate a modern port at no cost to the government.  Badagry alone would have created over 5000 jobs. It will generate nothing less than N10 trillion annually for this government at no cost.

 

 

 

“Government doesn’t have business being in business.  The job of the government is to create an enabling environment for this business to thrive.  You cannot continue to concession maritime security to foreigners.  What is the job of the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA)? What is the job of the Nigerian Navy? This shows that we have over the years been exposing the country’s security to strangers, something that should ordinarily be our responsibility.

 

 

Speaking about investment in the maritime industry, Captain Oluwasegun revealed that the Cabotage Act is a game changer. According to him, the four pillars of the act revealed that any ship that will sail within Nigeria’s coast must be operated, registered, and owned by Nigerians.

 

 

“Why is the Cabotage Act not implemented fully? We have investors here; the government does not need to contribute money. Imagine engaging the British, American, Chinese, and Japanese companies to invest and establish their branch of your shipbuilding in Nigeria. This would create more than 20,000 unemployed Nigerians off the job market.

 

 

He also emphasised on the need to improve the maritime security. This according to him, is supposed to take care of what happened under the sea, on the sea, and above the sea.

 

 

He said, “We are still battling what happened on the sea and not what is going on above the sea.  We have not even talked about what happened under the sea. So, when you are talking about the maritime you are talking about the sea and everything around us.

 

 

“So, we are not there yet, we have not started. This is not about Nigeria acquiring fighting jets, but first, what are the causes, and the first thing we need to employ trained professionals who understand how we can fix every criminal activity within the shore of Nigeria.

 

 

Captain Oluwasegun further said that Nigeria has six major seaports engaged in maritime trade, but it has placed so much emphasis on attention on the port in Apapa and Tin-Can Island, Lagos. 

 

 

“However, these seaports are relatively small for modern vessels to load or discharge liquefied products and bulk cargoes, and Nigerian waterways are not deep enough for the navigation of ultra-modern vessels.  Nigeria has a long coastline facing the Atlantic Ocean, and the country’s maritime economy is yet untapped.

“The maritime industry controls over 90% of Nigeria’s business, and if the country is not in the maritime industry, it is not in business. The Ijebu water side, alone, can accommodate the largest seaport in Africa.
” Nigeria can also have other smaller terminals that can address inland port and movement. The Government should learn from Panama and other maritime nations by contributing to the development of major maritime activities.
“The country’s economic GDP would also benefit enormously from the expansion of its navigable coast.  The recent launch of a deepwater seaport in Lagos is expected to create 300,000 jobs and reduce shipping bottlenecks,” he said.

Captain Oluwasegun therefore stated that the development of river and deep-sea ports in Nigeria is crucial for the country’s economic growth. According to him, the country needs to invest in modern maritime architecture capable of boosting the country’s GDP. 

 

Benita Afolabi, Customs broker, Kaystone Global Resources Ltd, in her comment, said that Nigeria is an amazing place to do business, but there are challenges, as in all other places. She therefore emphasized that the Nigerian government needs to make some amendments to the law, particularly the sabotage law, to encourage and promote peace in doing business in Nigeria.

 

She charged Mr. Adegboyega Oyetola, Minister of Maritime and Blue Economy to review and implement the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act (2003) to enhance indigenous participation in the maritime sector.

 

 

According to her, Nigeria is an amazing place to do business, of course, there are challenges like we have in all other places, but the country’s situation is a little different. She emphasised that the new Nigerian Government only needs to come up with workable solutions to the challenges.

 

 

She said, “Nigeria has the potential to attract more investors and improve its trade partnerships. One way to achieve this is by addressing the challenges faced by investors, such as high investment costs and taxes. For example, a man who imported a vessel into Nigeria paid 14% while his competitor paid only 1%.

 

 “These issues need to be addressed to encourage more investors to come to Nigeria. The country has the potential to be a hub for business, as evidenced by the presence of many foreigners in the country. The new legislators have also made it easier for bigger vessels to be transferred from smaller vessels, which is a positive development for the country.

 

“To take trade, especially in the port, to the next level, Nigeria needs to tap into its unexplored opportunities. The country has the potential to attract more investors and improve its trade partnerships. We only need to review the legislation, by opening up and transiting the maritime trade into a serious investment.
“We need to own and invest in the bigger vessels and smaller vessels. Nigeria is ripe for business. You see a lot of foreigners here and there, if Nigeria is not promising for business, you won’t find them here. The inflow of foreigners into Nigeria is amazing. They are not just here for sight-seeing, they are here to do serious business,” she noted.
Afolabi, the Customs broker, therefore revealed that the Nigerian government has shown that there is much potential in the marine blue economy and transport sectors. She therefore noted that despite the challenges in the sector, the country should not give up, affirming that Nigeria remains the best maritime destination in West Africa.