I am extremely delighted to be one of the speakers at this gathering. I must admit that I am very much at home with this gathering because it is my constituency. Let me start this presentation by saying that the NUJ, Lagos Council Chairman deserves our applause for this training programme. I also thank Chevron for their tenacity and commitment to the training and re-training of Journalists, especially this one that is aimed at Lagos Journalists.
By Deacon Ovie Edomi, Ph.D., Publisher/ Editor-in-Chief, South-South International magazine online
Each of the words in the topic titled:
Marine Economy and Harnessing the Nation’s Potentials: The Media Perspective, has a place in Nigeria. Simple as this seems, when a topic like this is subject to discourse by the people in the media, hope is created because the media is the conscience of the nation.
Maritime nations like Greece, Singapore, the Philippines, Great Britain, the United States, Malaysia, Egypt, China, Germany, Norway, Japan and The Netherlands have a long history of maritime development running into centuries. It is the International sea trade that led to the discoveries of the sea routes to India by Christopher Columbus as well as the discovery of River Niger by Mongo Park and subsequently sea trade with other parts of the world.
There are four questions that we must answer:
- What is marine economy?
- In whose interest is marine economy?
- Are there potentials to be derived by a nation from a marine economy
- As a Journalist, which report would you choose for your medium?
What Is Marine Economy?
- Marine economy has been defined as the aggregate sustainable development of marine potentials of a nation’s ocean or marine ecosystem.
- Through recent research development, marine economy has also assumed a modern nomenclature known as blue economy, a concept that espouse the economic prospects of the otherwise blue oceans.
- Blue economy according to United Nation, is the sustainable use of ocean for economic growth and improved livelihood while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.
Some Marine Potentials In Nigeria
- Large coastal and Inland waterways
- Cargo handling
- Large scale commercial and industrial fishing
- Vessel management and operation
- Dry Docking
- Search and rescue operations
- Survey and hydrographic Surveying
- Vessel /boat construction and repairs
- Ship maintenance and support chandelling services
- Manning of Vessels / Ship Crewing (seafaring)
- Marine tourism
- Management of Marine pollution, prevention and control
16 Settlement of Marine related disputes
- Marine Insurance
- Maritime Safety and Security
From the above, though it is arguable whether Nigeria is a maritime nation or not (in view of its very low registered tonnage) but it is obvious that Nigeria has enormous maritime potentials that can be harnessed.
In whose Interest Is Marine Economy?
- Assuming we agree as a people that Nigeria is a maritime nation, we must be hopeful like other maritime nations whose economies are mainly dependent on maritime and begin another agitation for the full enactment of the Cabotage law in Nigeria as it is with the Jones Act in the United States.
- As most of us may be aware, the Cabotage regime is predicted on three planks. These are:
(1) Ship building and ship acquisition
(2) Coastal trade and Navigation along the nation’s territorial waters
(3)Man power development in the area of seafaring that must be indigenous
One consistently wonders that though it is now 23 years since the cabotage regime began, the expectation that it would stimulate private/ public sector investment in the development of port terminals, ports, jetties, waterways, mult-modal transport network, ship building, ship repairs, vessel acquisition, dry docking facilities and so on, we still have very little to show with respect to the cabotage regime.
Definitely, the purpose of our cabotage regime is to attract huge investment to Nigeria, but so far, not many Nigerians have benefitted from its implementation. It was Professor Gunter Pauli who popularized the concept of the Marine and Blue economy and projected that 100 million jobs can be created in 30 years via marine.
However, marine economy ought to be in the interest of the nation and her citizens. As maritime journalists, we and other maritime stakeholders, have been agitating for a separate Ministry that would cater for shipping and marine, which are specialist areas in transportation like Aviation but it is only recently that the Federal Government listened to us and heeded our call.
I therefore thank this regime of President Bola Tinubu for unbundling the Ministry of Transport and coming with the Federal Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy. Just like other stakeholders, I believe that when we have a Ministry that is manned by qualified professionals, the indiscriminate granting of waivers to foreign shipping companies will soon be a thing of the past.
In the name of stimulating the nation’s economy, I want to believe that the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy will push for a situation where the multi national companies operating in Nigeria will begin to engage indigenous shipping companies instead of operating chartering arrangement with foreign ship owners. This includes the NNPCL and NLNG.
NLNG for instance, has a fleet of gas tankers. These ought to have been registered in Nigeria but they fly the Bermudan flag, therefore depriving Nigeria of all the benefits that would have accrued if they are registered here. Ironically, the gas is produced in Nigeria and the headquarters of the company is based here. Also, marine insurance and others ought to be in the hands of indigenous operators.
This august audience may recall that not long ago, an Oil rig that was on charter under a joint venture project with the NNPCL operating in the country’s waters since 2016, capsized at Ovhor in Warri, Delta State.
Upon investigation, the regulatory authority found that the rig has been operating without approval. Unfortunately, the same rig ought to have been paying NIMASA 2% mandatory Cabotage levy.
Can we say we are harnessing our maritime potentials when the revenues that ought to go to the federal government account end up in some individuals‘ accounts?. This question is indeed, begging for answer.
Thus the question as to whether there are potentials to be derived from the Marine Economy, is apt at this juncture. Agreed that piracy is in operation in many maritime nations, It is doubtful if we have piracy in our waters because it is only robbery and armed attacks on ships we witnessed.
We must praise the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA and lately, Tantita operations which have helped to reduce different acts of economic sabotage and security challenges in Nigeria’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea generally.
Having said this, I must admit that the Nigeria’s marine economy has vast potentials and I will mention few, namely: Cabotage, maritime tourism, seafaring, large scale fishing, cargo handling, port operation, maritime security, marine insurance and human capital development.
If under the Marine and Blue Economy, the Minister of Blue and Marine Economy can develop the political will to reserve coastal trade to only indigenous operators, it will help to develop seafaring, ship ownership, local ship building and maintenance technology. These would in effect have multiplier effects on the iron and steel industries, aluminum and technology transfer.
To achieve this, we must avoid labeling foreign owned companies as indigenous companies. That will be like labeling made in Aba products as made in France or Italy. In 2024, the oil companies in Nigeria may be spending a total of over 300 billon US dollars in their operations and the maritime component of this projected budget may be about 10%.
This equally represents what the marine and blue economy will reserve for Nigerian shippers if the Cabotage law is fully enforced. Sadly under the Cabotage regime, the ownership and crewing of the FPSOs are in foreign hands. Similarly, the Cabotage fund is in several banks. Not a bad idea though but won’t it be better to have a Maritime bank? This I think will encourage further development of larger shipping activities by Nigerians on international scale. In talking about Cabotage, the CVFFs which is meant to assist indigenous ship ownership should be disbursed so that indigenous ship owners can acquire Vessels.
From a conservative estimate, Nigeria stands to benefit over 50 billion US Dollars from Insurance business alone. Unfortunately, core maritime insurance businesses are done by foreign companies who have representatives here in Nigeria. The Minister of Marine and Blue Economy should change this narrative.
Port Operations and Customs
The first recorded international maritime trade in Nigeria was in the 15th century when a Portuguese named John D’Aveiro opened the Bight of Benin in 1485. Thereafter, a Briton named Captain Wyndham joined the fray in 1553.After he captained the first iron steamer to the Niger Delta coast in 1832, a Briton, Mc. Gregor Liard, was credited with laying the foundation of modern shipping in Nigeria.
He established the African Shipping Company in 1849 and entered into a contract with the Foreign Office in 1856 to supply a steamer every year for five years to promote trade in Nigeria.
The above suggests that a viable foundation was laid for the development of ports in Nigeria even before Britain established a colonial hold on the country. It is on record that the first major breakthrough in opening up the Lagos Lagoon was in 1906 when orders were placed for dredgers to work at the bar. In the same year, the first length of the East Mole was approved for construction, the stones for which were enabled to be easily transported via the Lagos-Abeokuta Railway line. As the entrance moles were pushed further seawards, the depths over the bar increased steadily thereby creating the need for the accommodation of long and heavier steamers.
On 1st February 1914, the first steamer SS Akolo (drawing 5.64 meters) entered what has become the Lagos Harbour. Two months later, sea going vessels began to use facilities provided at the Customs Wharf on Lagos Island.
Though the decision to develop Apapa port was taken in 1913, it was only in 1921 that the construction of the first four deep water berths of 548.64 meters long began. However, in the Eastern flank of the country, the discovery of coal in Enugu motivated the building of ports and work commenced on the building of Port Harcourt Port, which was opened to shipping in 1913, having been commissioned by the Governor General, Lord Frederick Lugard.
A berth for colliers was dredged out and constructed for loading coal while the Enugu-Port Harcourt railway line was completed in 1916. In 1927, four berths of 1,920 feet long were developed and the funds for the first major extension works were provided in 1954. The Nigeria Port system in Port Harcourt, Apapa and other ports, terminals and jetties have contributed largely to the revenue of the nation but we need to run a more efficient port that runs 24/7.
There is also the need to look into deep sea mining and Customs operations. Though we have some of the best trained Customs officers but the attitude of some at our airports, seaports and border towns leave a visitor with a negative perception. However there are much to harness from the nation’s seaports. For instance, in 2020 the total cargo throughput was 80,738,679. This went up in 2021 to 81,299,924 throughputs. Last year the throughout dropped to 75,498,872. Also, the Customs revenue generation to the federation account has been in trillions of Naira.
We have many islands and lakes in Nigeria that can be turned to tourist attraction sites but the political will to do it is lacking in Nigeria.
- Why can’t we explore the possibilities of turning over lakes and islands to tourist sites in Nigeria like you find in Bahamas, Egypt , Florida etc.
Human Capacity Development
If the nation is able to increase the go to sea programme for young adults and encourage them to build successful careers in seafaring, it will in the not too distant future provide it with teeming youths who are seafarers and cadets that earn their salaries in different parts of the world and remitting part of such foreign earnings to Nigeria.
Philippines is one country whose major earning is from seafaring.
Massive human Capacity training of Nigerians in seafaring will also lead to adequate funding of MAN, Oron, one of the 500 maritime academies recognized globally by the International Maritime Organization, (IMO).
Let me at this stage emphasized that the training standard of any maritime nation determines how the nation is rated by the IMO coupled with its compliance with other maritime treaties/regulations.
Meanwhile, apart from funding MAN, Oron, the Nigeria Maritime University, Okerenkoko, and other maritime institutions, Nigeria as a country should develop a programme under the marine and blue economy to engage the nation’s cadets/seafarers in sea time experience just like the Nigerian Seafarer Development programme, NSDP under NIMASA’S supervision.
This is also because the Certificate Of Competence, (CoC) issued by NIMASA is in accordance with STCW and hence recognized globally. This will enable Nigerians with CoC to get job easily on board international trading vessels. Our 63 years of independence means nothing if we cannot harness our resources and develop our human capacity development.
Fishing and other Resources
Who says we cannot export prawns, crayfish and other ornamental seafoods to other countries and earn foreign exchange from such resources from the water?
Who say we cannot export palm oil, cocoa, timber and earn enormous foreign exchange? Nigeria has so much potential in food and cash crops.
If only our marine and blue economy Ministry can collaborate with others to harness these potentials, it will profit our country and her people.
Marine Economy and The media
Journalism has three broad traditions namely:
- Advocacy (oldest form of the tradition and started in 1830)
- Reporting (this prioritize facts)
- Expose (investigative Journalism whose goal is to inform).
The steady progress made in Nigeria in sports, politics ( democracy and independence) and so on cannot be complete without the media. The media as Fourth Estate of the realm is the watchdog of the society. It has been the conscience of the nation and sets agenda for public discourse.
In playing this role, the Journalists must remain objective and accurate in their presentations of facts as well as protect national interest. But the biggest question for the Journalists here is: in a country where the media is not subsidized via advertisement, media grants, training and so on, how would a Journalist report an issue of interest that will make national headlines but when reported, will hinder or endanger economic growth or prevent foreign investors from coming to the country?
The following few illustrations would suffice:
(1) Customs officer demands Bribe from Passengers at Nigeria’s Airport
(2) MT Vinnalaris has been stealing Nigeria’s oil since 2018 _Tantita
(3) Foreign firm losses 20 billion US Dollar over contract cancellation
(4) World Bank rejects NPA’s modernization project
(5) No more deep sea Mining in Nigeria’s Coastal Region -Minister
(6) 16 Workers of A Foreign Ship kidnapped
The big question now is: On the basis of the above, what angle does the Marine and Blue Ministry and other business concerns want their issues to be reported? Is it from the angle of national interest, developmental journalism, propaganda etc?
This is against the backdrop of the fact that since 1999, it is mostly politicians and their protégés that are recruited to man the top echelon of the sector in spite of the abundance of core professionals who relate easily and are more open to journalists over time.
I am sure the Marine and Blue Economy Ministry will not want bad press that seek to galvanize public hatred against the Ministry which I personally considered as the Baby of the nation.
On the part of the Journalists, are they prepared to give positive press to the Marine and Blue economy Ministry and issues around the new Ministry? From the point of view of Journalism, the Nigerian Journalist thrives on war or combative Journalism because it is what will make his medium prominent and attract more readers/followers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, U-tube, WhatsApp etc.
No doubt, l agree that a Journalist should be fair to all as is expected ethically. But where the Journalist enjoys no advert support, no media grants, no training etc and he or she is faced with a story that will bring him money or fame as against national interest, certainly some Journalists will consider their personal or economic interest first. This is food for thought for handlers of the nation’s economy.
However, the media should at all times, see itself as an indispensable champion of the cause of the ordinary people and should be continuously pre-occupied with its agenda setting role. To this extent, various agencies and institutions of government should massively support the traditional media and the new media operators to shape and influence social, economic and political developments across Nigeria and beyond.
In the meantime, to further drive and boost the vision of the Marine and Blue Economy Ministry, a lot of synergy is needed from the Marine and Blue Economy Ministry, Agriculture and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources amongst others, so that when the indigenous shipping operators have access to the CVFFs, more fishing trawlers would be built and deployed and probably the NNPCL would allow them participate in both wet and dry cargo lifting.
Let me say that all the areas l have highlighted, are potential areas for job creation and huge revenue generation for our dear country.
Philippines as a country has carved a niche for herself in the area of seafaring and earns not less than 7 billion US Dollars annually from seafaring.
Let’s look at areas that Nigeria as a maritime nation can optimize her potentials and earn massive foreign exchange in return. We as Journalists can help set agenda for the government. The Marine and Blue Economy Ministry on its’ part, should be able to identify areas that Nigeria can leverage on to impact growth and improve the nation’s GDP.
On my part, l have in this paper identified the following
- Efficient port operations
- Effective implementation of the Cabotage policy
- Investment in marine tourism
- Massive training of Seafarers
- Massive investment in maritime security.
I believe very strongly that if Nigeria could harnessed her potentials in the era of pre and post-independence, and was at par with the Asian Tigers, if our political leaders could develop the political will to do what has been suggested or recommended on how to grow the nation’s economy, we will stop singing the same song of potentials, potentials, potentials and continuously having motions without movement.
Let the Minister of the Marine and Blue Economy stand out as a leader with the political will and Nigeria in no distant future would be at par with the Asian Tigers again. After all, who ever imagined that a desert could be turned to another pride of the world in a short space of time in the Middle East?
Certainly, the harvest depends on the seed and the press which represents the conscience of the nation must continue to hold our leaders accountable.
Lastly, nothing will be achieved if nothing is done about harnessing our potentials. We have to change this narrative.