By Adegboyega Oni
Maritime stakeholders have posited that the Nigeria maritime industry if well funded by the federal government can conveniently provide the much-needed revenue to save the nation from the perennial national budget deficit, which has become the bane of poor or non-existent infrastructure in the country.
Speaking at an economic summit in Lagos on Thursday February 7, 2019, the stakeholders were of the opinion that the nation’s maritime industry has the capacity to fund the national budget but has suffered a near total neglect in the hands of the federal government, which has made its abundant potentials remain untapped for so long.
Dr. Alex Okwuashi, Rector, Certified Institute of Shipping of Nigeria (CISN), in his paper – How the Nigerian maritime subsector can fund that national budget – noted that the national annual budget for six years were all based on projected earnings from crude oil, whose prices have been nose-diving over the years, and this has resulted in slower economic growth. He maintained that the maritime sector has the potentials to fund the budget but the federal government must prepare to address the glaring maritime infrastructural deficit and provide policy support for the industry.
Okwuashi said ‘’The national budget, which the maritime sub sector has the potential to fund, must be seen to be fair in allocating the much-needed funding so that the sector can generate the revenue necessary to defray Federal Government’s expenditures. However, crude oil that has been the backbone of the economy is failing and the foreign exchange regime is unpredictable.
‘’National annual budget for six years all based on projected earnings from crude oil, whose prices have been nose-diving over the years. This is in the face of unsteady foreign exchange regime. This situation has revealed the fact that for too long Nigeria has relied too heavily on crude oil revenues to fund government spending, and this has resulted in slower economic growth.
‘’The maritime transport sub sector is a critical national infrastructure and it holds the key to making Nigeria a globally competitive economy. However, without an effective and efficient maritime transport infrastructure, the viability and efficiency of the Nigerian economy would be in jeopardy. Indeed, the economic growth of Nigeria has become inexorably related to developments and improvements in the maritime sub sector.
‘’The maritime sub sector has the potential to form a huge component of the total budgetary requirements of the country, if properly harnessed. Within the transport sector, the maritime sub sector is treated like a distant relation and that explains why issues relating to the sector are not accorded the urgency and importance they deserve.
‘’Until the maritime sub sector is given adequate attention, by way of budgetary allocations and infrastructural development, it may not be able to fund the national budget and Nigeria may not be able to transit from budget deficit to budget surplus. Budget surplus is a case of revenues exceeding the expenditures.’’
For this to be realised, Okwuashi, whose paper was delivered by Dr. Gabriel Eto from CISN, noted that lack of synergy among stakeholders has slowed down the needed growth the industry requires and advised them to collaborate for the industry to get adequate attention from the government.
Also speaking, Dr. Jonathan Cole, Chairman of Nigerian Shippers Association, said it is worrisome that there is no electricity in the ports as other infrastructures that could aid growth have totally collapsed. He added that there are too many regulators in the sector and this has hampered growth.
He believed the maritime industry has the potentials that can generate enough revenue to fund the nation’s budget deficit if it is properly managed and right infrastructures are provided as he advised the federal government to de-emphasis her dependence on crude oil and begins to focus more on maritime to fund her budget.
According to him, ‘’for Nigeria to be a strong economy and maritime nation government must begin to provide infrastructure in the industry.’’
Earlier in his address, Mr. Tunde Ojudun, Executive Secretary of Nigerian Economic Growth Summit Group, the organiser of the summit, bemused by the over-dependence of the federal government on petroleum to finance the national budget while neglecting maritime industry which has abundant resources that can yield enough fund than petroleum if well managed.
He informed the audience that the summit was put together by the group to open the eyes of the federal government to the cool cash that is lying fallowed in the maritime industry.