The shipping industry particularly in the aspect of Nigerian participation has not taken off well. We had a good start but midway it collapsed. We should be looking at other parts of shipping development which we believe will reposition the country. We should be looking at
capacity buildings, developing seafarers, ship building and ships repairs at least from a small scale. As it is now, we have a huge advantage but we are not using the advantage we have to the full. In all aspect of the shipping industry, capacity building is key and therefore
we can start with what NIMASA is doing now by training people although some have criticized the methodology but the fact is that it is an attempt to create a new cadet because the ones we have that started the NNSL are aging away so we need a new cadet. With the NSDP NIMASA
programme in place then we can start building maritime schools and upgrade the ones we have so that we can have the capacity when our shipping industry is revived so that we can have manpower. We should also be looking at building competence and ship acquisition.
OTUNBA KUNLE FOLARIN
Firstly you need to look at what the maritime sector was like in 1960 and what the level of advancement is today. So from this point of view, one can get a good assessment of how the maritime sector has fared in the last 55 years. Some parameters to consider are: What is our import, export capacity like, if we are looking at trade? What is the level of development within the sector? What is the level of our involvement in our territorial waters? Are we in proper control of our maritime domain? What is the level of human resource development? If we can measure our maritime sector against these parameters, then one would agree that even though we have recorded a reasonable level of achievement, there is still room for greater achievement. So I will rather say 55 years after independence, we are still on track though we are not there yet. If we can be committed to the issue of fighting corruption, that way we may be working towards achieving our maritime benefit.
Our shipping sector is the worst within the sub region. When you look at our port system, it has not complied with any international process. On the Customs side, i am happy a new man has come but i know he can only do restructuring and increase revenue but he cannot do reform because
the law does not permit him to do reform in Customs. It can only be done by the President and the Finance minister. When you look at NIMASA, they have not been focusing on their core function. Neighbouring countries like Togo, Ghana and Cotonou have also taken over our cargo throughput
because of government policies. So, we are losing everything. A country like Nigeria that has mass land locked area but yet we don’t have a dry port. An ICD is not a dry port because there is no rail linking it.
So our system in the last 55 years has not fared well. We have lost our cargoes to other countries. We control 80 percent of the cargoes within the port, is the 80 percent coming to Nigeria? If you look at our ports, they have been politicised, so we need a lot of restructuring in the whole set up because it has not fared well. I believe that this new government will be able to put things right for the generation yet unborn. Government needs to ensure that the right people who have capacity are appointed to head the various agencies; they should not just bring somebody because he is from a particular region. If the government doesn’t put people who have capacity we would continue to complain.
It has been a very long journey for the maritime industry and by and large we have seen a lot of agitations here and there because the systems we are practising now is a complete different system that does not fall in agreement with the practise of the past which embraced all
factions of the maritime industry into one. There is this harmony in those days among the practitioners, but nowadays, we call it scientific development. We don’t see that oneness anymore. We are still crawling at 55 and you know a baby will seat first before she crawls and
thereafter she will learn how to walk, so for us, we are still crawling. May be by the time we are 100 years old, I believe the maritime industry would have been integrated into the advance system of doing business. My agitation is for government to look into reducing the cost of doing
business in Nigeria. We are very much concerned about the ways shippers are short changed. The purpose of doing business is to make some profit but if government policies will take all their profit, then there may be no need for you to come to a country where concentrations are not given
to investors. So therefore, government should reverse some of its harsh policies that actually makes importers to patronise other countries.