By Adegboyega Oni
The Federal Government of Nigeria has been urged by maritime and shipping stakeholders to nationalize the maritime industry and petroleum industry, particularly the freighting of the nation’s petroleum crude and gas.
The stakeholders were of the opinion that the nationalization will not only compel the International Oil Companies (IOC) operating in the country to stop patronizing foreign shipping, it will also end the firm grip of such shipping companies on the crude lifting and will create job opportunities (cargo) for indigenous shipping lines.
The stakeholders made the submission at the 2019 edition of Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference (TAAM) held at the University of Lagos, in Lagos last week.
TAAM, an initiative between SIFAX Group and the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, is an avenue for the Town (maritime stakeholders) and the Gown (the university) to brainstorm and proffer solutions to various challenges that inhabit the nation’s maritime industry from attaining its desired growth. The topic for the 2019 edition is ‘’Innovation and Practical Reforms Towards Sustainable Growth in the Maritime Sector.’’
The stakeholders noted that the economic potentials that are abound in the nation’s vast ocean and coastline which include petroleum, if adequately and judiciously harnessed, are capable of making Nigeria great economically and perhaps changing her poverty narrative.
According to them, but this could not be achieved because the nation’s maritime industry and petroleum industry are heavily subjugated by an avalanche of problems despite the existence of various maritime and shipping laws, particularly, the Cabotage Law, put in place by the government to build the industry.
They noted that the preference of IOC for foreign shipping lines was attributed to weak implementation of the Cabotage Law, which does nothing but granting of waivers to foreign vessels.
Other problems facing investors in the industry are high banking interest rates, insecurity, carriage of Nigerian cargo on Freight on Board (FOB) instead of CIF, Poor transportation model and infrastructure and gender inequality – discrimination against women – as opinionalised by the female stakeholders.
They were of the view that despite commending the recent signing of the anti-piracy bill into law by President Muhammadu Buhari, pthe stakeholders strongly believed that more still need to be done by the government to safeguard the nation’s ocean and coastline as many foreign shipping lines still come up with various surcharges citing security threats.
For the nation’s maritime industry to achieve its desired development in order to contribute to the overall national economic growth, the following recommendations were proffered by the stakeholders to mitigate the problems. The recommendations are: Government agencies – NPA, NIMASA, Customs and Nigerian Shippers Council – must aim at sustaining policies that will drive the industry, all Nigerian ports must be connected by the railways for evacuation of cargo by rail to the hinterland and strict implementation of the Anti-piracy Law.
Other recommendations were more collaboration between the Town and the Gown for innovative solutions that will sustain the growth of the sector, inclusion of maritime studies in the curriculum of high learning institutions while at secondary school level, enlightenment on maritime should be sustained and Nigerian Ship owners must form a pressure group to press for their demands
They also called for the review of port concession, setting up of a maritime bank by the government and appropriation of more fund for the industry.
On gender equality, government was called upon to stop discrimination against women participation in the maritime industry and other sectors of the nation’s economy by creating law to stop this.