AFCFTA: Stakeholders Explore Options At Leadership Lecture
Calls for Collaboration/Synergy Deafening
The Nigerian maritime industry continues to stagnate and suffer from inconsistent policies, poor execution of programs/projects, mutual suspicion among stakeholders, inter Agency squabbles/ struggle for relevance and lack of collaboration in pursuit of national developmental goals.
Venting their frustration at the 2nd Transport Leadership Lecture themed “Leadership In A Next LeveL”, investors in maritime and aviation businesses lamented the dearth of infrastructure, lack of funding templates/high interest rates and threw up myriad of issues which culminated in the underdevelopment of the country in many fronts.
Former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Mr. Raymond Temi Omatseye said the time has come for stakeholders to take back the industry and own it.
According to Omatseye a major part of the problem the industry face is that majority of operators in the sector focus more on their personal interests while neglecting the overall national good.
In his words “A lot has gone wrong in the industry and I sincerely apologize for my role in the journey so far. Cabotage has failed but to fail is nothing to worry about. We must learn from our mistakes and strive to ensure that we succeed going forward. We must take responsibility for our failures and chart a new cours; but to live in denial is to die in denial”
Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC, Mr. Hassan Bello revved discussions at the lecture when he mounted the podium to deliver the Council’s goodwill message.
“I am not down cast, all I see are opportunities and opportunities. People say we need trillions and trillions for infrastructure, you cannot go to a country like Canada for instance and talk of trillions to put infrastructure in place because they have done almost everything but here we are building and constructing and putting facilities in place. So we should not be discouraged by the challenges but we should be rejuvenated by the huge opportunities around us”
“The African Continental Free Trade Agreement, AFCFTA could just be the spur that we need to pull us out of the slumber and begin to do the needful”
Stressing that Nigeria has a huge economic status in the African continent, Bello said the opportunities for growth far outweigh whatever hitches being encountered at the moment.
“We are talking about a $2billion economy, we are talking about 1.2 billion people, we are talking connected countries, we are talking about the need for production and protection for our people. Nigeria is so big that it cannot be treated like other countries. We must have advantages and incentives as we work at bridging the deficit gap in infrastructure”
“Regardless of the issues and challenges we face, progress is being made. Today, cargo is being transported to Kaduna by rail on weekly basis. I am sure Princess Vicky Haastrup will be happy to hear of this development as movement of cargo to the hinterland becomes easier for her customers and other port users”
Outlining efforts and plans of the Council in ensuring more efficient port operations in Nigeria, Bello was emphatic that collaboration and continuous stakeholder’s engagement is very crucial to bring about the desired change in the maritime industry.
While other speakers at the Lecture such as Mr. John Egesi, (former Director General of the defunct National Maritime Authority now NIMASA), Mrs. Margret Orakwusi, Princess Vicky Haastrup, Otunba Kunle Folarin and several others bemoaned the sorry state of infrastructure across the country especially the Apapa gridlock and its attendant pains and loses, the guest lecturer, Mrs. Mfon Usoro assured that Africa has the potentials to be great if the right leadership is enthroned and principles of good governance observed and adhered to.
Usoro said African countries must identify their areas of strength, know where they have the competitive and comparative advantages over others, build and develop on such areas and become leading powers.
She listed Maritime Technology, Maritime Law, Ports and Logistics, Seafaring and Maritime Financing as areas where some countries are looked up to and depended on by investors in carrying out their businesses.
“How well are African countries represented at the IMO”, Usoro asked.
She called for synergy and unity of purpose among Federal Government Agencies in the maritime industry if greater progress is to be made especially with the dawning of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement which Nigeria has assented to.
Specifically, Usoro insisted that Nigeria must become more production oriented and deemphasize importation if the country is not to become the dumping ground for goods produced at less cost in neighbouring countries.
Stakeholders agreed that in-fighting, actions that indicate territorial conquest and trying to outdo one another instead of working together are part of the reasons why maritime Bills at the National Assembly suffer setbacks.
The glaring taking of one progressive step forward and ten retrogressive ones thereafter was identified as what must change to bring about the expected Next Level Progression in Transportation logistics in Nigeria.