The performance of the sector can be measured in terms of human resource development, cargo throughput and the level of deployment of resources. We cannot say the reform effort of the past administration is still ongoing and this is because the government of the day never defined its own agenda for the maritime sector before coming on board. That is why when the Transport Minister came on board; he started attending one meeting to another because he never had any prepared agenda for the sector. As it is right now, except this administration sits down to weigh the importance of the maritime sector to the economy and to the nation, then it may not see the need to review most of the policies it introduced especially the Central Bank Policy on forex. As it is now, cargo throughput both import and export is not forthcoming. So the government must go back, take a second look and put in place a cushioning effect of this present economic meltdown.
There are no changes in the maritime sector for now. It has not fared well at all and this is not encouraging. When you look at the industry, you will notice that ship traffic has gone down drastically and volume of import has decreased to more than 70 percent. As a result, a lot of people have lost their jobs. For me, the maritime sector is not working because there is no direction yet and performance cannot be measured when we don’t have clear direction either from the Ministry of Transport or the Ministry of Finance. What we have now is a confused system where everybody is just watching. Procedures have not been properly documented. For example, there are lot of bills that are still pending at the National Assembly such as the National Transport Commission Bill, the Ports and Harbours Bills and others. All these must be looked into and passed into law to move the sector forward.
If we are to look at the performance level of the maritime sector in terms of operation, there has been drop in ship traffic and volume of cargo throughput due to the prevailing economic situation occasioned by the lack of forex availability. That is one factor that has led to drop in volume of activities in the sector. So the drop in cargo volume due to lack of foreign exchange cannot be a plus to this administration. However, we are not apportioning blame but only trying to highlight areas where this administration should focus more on. In the area of infrastructure, there has been upgrade of infrastructure of the port. It is an ongoing development even before the Buhari administration but has continued into his own administration. In the area of restructuring, NIMASA has been on the searchlight while the Nigerian Shippers’ Council is also doing excellent work in its effort at regulating the maritime sector but the legal aspect concerning pending bills in the National Assembly must be quickly addressed. So for me, over all, the sector has fared a little above average during the past one year of this administration.
Otunba Kunle Folarin
The maritime sector has not fared badly and I will give it a pass mark. We all know that the maritime sector needed complete reform and when this administration came on board it did not just build on the rotten foundation but rather they are taking their time to fully understand the challenges of the industry so that we can then build a solid foundation. So I think that is a positive step towards the right direction. We have lost a lot of money in the last administration that ought to have gone into shipping development. This administration has appraised and addressed the issue of training in Maritime Academy, Oron because the development of cadets is very important. They have also addressed the issue of seafarers’ development that we are spending millions of dollars on. The issue of division among the ship owners have also been addressed. Also from my own perspective, drop in volume of cargo is a very positive reaction in the sense that, we cannot be importing what we do not need and with that manufacturing of Nigerian goods will increase so that export volume can also rise. That deliberate policy of encouraging Nigerians to buy made in Nigeria goods will earn us more foreign currency and I think it is a step in the right direction.
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