Despite the huge natural and human resources within the Nigerian maritime sector, negligence on the part of government is seen as responsible for the country’s inability to reap the economic gains from the industry and maximise its potentials, an expert in the sector has said.
Bem Ibrahim Garba, MD/CEO of GOG Marine Ltd, regrets that the Nigerian government, despite having full knowledge of the potentials and economic benefits in the maritime sector deliberately fail to recognise its importance or apply the knowledge to the development of the economy.
Garba also lamented that Nigeria still lags behind Greece despite having similar opportunities in the industry and has to depend on many other seafaring states including the smaller European state to meet her maritime and logistics requirement
“If you are like me, and you think about situations like this deeply, you will find that the difference is not about the lack of resources, manpower, or one country being better endowed than the other. The difference actually lies in what each country knows and how it chooses to make use of that knowledge”, he said.
He added that “as a country, Nigerian government officials responsible for the shipping industry’s development theoretically know and understand the significance of a fully developed indigenous shipping industry.
“They know about the millions of well-paid jobs that this industry can create for the locals. They know about the valuable taxes that the country could earn if this industry was fully optimised. They know about the pride that Nigeria would derive from having our national flag, proudly hoisted among the committee of well represented seafaring nations. The challenge lies in how well we have we choose to utilise this well-articulated knowledge.”
Garba pointed out that unlike Greece, Nigeria was not taking the issue of maritime business serious and has been unable to exploit its natural advantages.
According to him, “these two countries have the natural advantage of proximity to the sea, giving their indigenous people (coastal people) the natural advantage of seeking employment, trade and wealth creation from trades associated with the sea, yet these gains only accrue to one of the two states”.
“The story is about two countries knowing and understanding the importance of what they have, and applying that knowledge to the development of their economies” he said.
He regretted that while Nigeria’s major source of income is crude oil exports, 100 percent of the freight earned from transporting crude to foreign buyers goes to foreign ship owners and shipping companies.
“As is the case with the export of crude oil, transporting clean petroleum products into Nigeria to meet our local consumption is also done by foreign-owned vessels, fostering huge volumes of foreign exchange capital flight,” he said.
Garba, therefore, called on the Nigerian government to create an environment that supports the growth of competitive indigenously owned tonnage.
He also called on private stakeholders to sharpen their skills, develop technical and commercial capabilities required to successfully operate within the maritime sector.