By Gboyega Oni
The Group Executive Vice Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi (MON) has said that infrastructural deficit in the Nigerian maritime industry has negated the commitment of the Federal Government to port reforms and, more importantly, the good intention of the recent Executive Order by Acting President Osibanjo.
Dr. Taiwo Afolabi stated this in his remark at the second edition of Taiwo Afolabi Annual Maritime Conference organised by the Faculty of Law, University of Lagos, Nigeria, in his honour last week in Lagos.
Afolabi who was worried by the poor state of infrastructure in the industry said the deplorable access roads, faulty cargo scanners, non-existent rail system, non-functional truck bays, among others, have conspired to negatively impact the service delivery efficiency and overall impact of the sector on the Nigerian economy.
According to Afolabi, the contribution of the sector to the country’s GDP is still very low, stressing that the sector has a key role to play in the alleviation of extreme poverty and hunger and is strategic to any nation in terms of its contribution to its economic growth and development.
Afolabi maintained that the conference was designed to the culture of intellectual discourse in the country’s maritime industry.
“It is always very refreshing and humbling, for me, to see my little efforts at stimulating growth in the maritime industry, being recognized by one’s alma mater and a crop of young but highly intelligent students who have shown keen interest in the industry.
“One of the key objectives of this conference is to promote the culture of intellectual discourse in the country’s maritime industry. This intellectual engagement will be solution-oriented. We seek to address topical issues that are germane to the prosperity of the maritime sector as well as all its stakeholders, which include the client, agents, investors, regulators, workers and the community, among others,” he said.
Afolabi says: “According to the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the United Nations affiliate responsible for regulating the global maritime industry, over 90% of the world’s trade is transported by sea and it is, by far, the most cost-effective way to move en masse goods and raw materials around the world.
“The sector also has a key role to play in the alleviation of extreme poverty and hunger as it already provides an important source of income and employment for many developing countries, such as the supply of seagoing personnel and ship recycling, ship owning and operating, shipbuilding and repair and port services, among others.
“As highlighted above, the maritime industry is strategic to any maritime nation in terms of its contribution to its economic growth and development. In Nigeria, the contribution of the sector to the country’s GDP is still very low when juxtaposed with its huge potentials and opportunities.
“One of the major factors that have impeded the sector from fulfilling its potentials is huge infrastructural deficit.
“This challenge is the major reason we are all gathered to address it. Our sector cannot continue to reel under the burden of infrastructural decay if we want to contribute meaningfully to the economy and fulfill the industry’s potentials.
“Let me at this juncture commend the commitment of the Federal Government to reforms in the maritime industry, especially the Executive Order signed some months back by the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo. It is an acknowledgement of the fact that things must be done differently. However, infrastructural deficit would negate the good intentions of the government if this problem is not strategically and urgently addressed.