2nd National Discourse With DMPs: Verdict Passed, Solutions Proffered to Maritime Issues
*Nigeria has all the potentials to be a great maritime nation
*Losses from maritime gaps and inefficiencies estimated at N1tr
*National Fleet needed for economic growth/development
*Long term planning and policy consistency advocated
*Frown on Construction of Deep Sea Ports as “constituency projects”
*Decry inadequate funding of Maritime Training Institutions
*Emphasize need for Capacity Building to ensure professionalism in maritime operations
L/R: Mr. Kennedy Ikemefuna, (representative of the President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, MWUN, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju, Mr. Charles Okorefe, Lecturer at the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, Barr. Hassan Bello, Mr. Kelvin Kagbare and Dr. Francis Omotosho (representing Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, at the 2nd National Discourse with Distinguished Maritime Personalities, in Lagos.
Maritime professionals who spoke at the 2nd edition of the National Discourse with Distinguished Maritime Personalities, DMPs, pointedly commended the Federal Government for the creation of the ministry of Marine and Blue Economy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The DMPs unanimously agreed that the coming of the ministry at this time in Nigeria’s history heralds a new beginning for the unhindered harnessing of the vast resources which abound in littoral states of the country.
Speaker after speaker, the need to stay focused, muster the political will and put the needed infrastructure in place to encourage private investors to invest in and benefit from the resources of the ocean was re-echoed.
Chairman of the event, Engr. Greg Ogbeifun, erstwhile chairman of Starz Engineering and Investments Company Limited; a maritime icon by all standards, noted that Nigeria has all that is required to be a great maritime nation. What is lacking, according to Ogbeifun is the needed leadership with the vision and the zeal to drive the needed diversification plans with emphasis on maritime potentials.
His words “Because of the capital intensive nature of shipping; if you want to buy or build a ship and register it in some countries, you enjoy zero import duty on that ship, you get tax holiday for five years or more to enable your cash flow amortize your loan and you also get VAT reviews and other incentives-for public and private sector interests who are desirous of investing in shipping or establishing any kind of fleet. The Federal Government must adopt these enabling models existing in many shipping nations of the world if we want to own ships or establish fleet of any kind”
Barrister Hassan Bello, former Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council, NSC and Principal Partner, Justicia Legal Practitioners, in his presentation at the event, expressed dismay at the seeming lack of planning and regulation in the wholesome approval given by the Federal Government for the construction and operation of deep sea ports by some states in the country.
“The establishment of more deep seaports is a welcome development but citing them indiscriminately like ‘constituency projects’ forecloses their sustainability. Those building new deep sea ports should engage in proper feasibility studies to ensure that such ports are constructed with economic benefits in mind”
“When you look at our ports, they are not export designated, they were designed for import trade, so kudos should be given to the Nigeria Ports Authority that is restructuring and putting in place export designated terminals. Competition is critical to the development of ports but it looks like we don’t have it”.
“The consignment that the port attracts makes it what it should be. It should have integration. We should not just build ports because we have water. Our ports must be efficient and competitive. You decide what you want in terms of choices and designs. Competitive ports must be smart and must be efficient. Our ports as they are are built to keep receiving cargo. Any nation that builds sea ports to receive cargos without exports will die.”, Hassan Bello said
Mr. Charles Okorefe, a lecturer at the Nigerian Maritime University, NMU, Okerenkoko Delta state, expressed deep emotional displeasure at the dearth of facilities and equipment at the NMU.
According to him “A lot of gaps still exists and we need to speak to that. For instance, where I lecture, the Nigerian Maritime University is new by all consideration, but let us not be deceived; we are about to graduate the third set, yet a lot of people do not even know that that university has taken off”.
“It’s a tragedy because a lot is going on that is not reported about that university. You journalists need to go there and dig deep into what is going on in that university. There is a lot of deficit, both in terms of infrastructure and manpower. The environment is very challenging for those who work there and the students themselves. So a lot of despondency exist on the part of staff and even management which is affecting the University”.
Lamenting the sorry state of affairs at the NMU, Okorefe said, “I can tell you for free that we still lack facilities. I give it to MAN Oron especially with the coming onboard of Commodore Duja Effedua, who is the Rector. He has turned that place around and a lot of deficiencies have been addressed. But there’s still a lot more to be done in terms of providing the required infrastructure, the course contents and everything that is required to build the student population to be able to key into the modern times”.
“We’re talking about Artificial Intelligence, AI, block chain technology, big data and all of that. These are the things that drive ships and ports at the moment and the earlier we key into these emerging trends the better for the country”
The indefatigable tireless captain Tajudeen Alao, who led a powerful delegation of the Nigeria Association of Master Mariners, NAMM, to the National Discourse, was very nostalgic on the demise of the Nigerian National Shipping Line, NNSL.
Alao insisted that those ships were overtaken by events and the emergence of new technologies in shipbuilding/cargo handling.
“There was no way those ship could compete. They were old and newer, bigger ships came into the shipping business which we could not compete with. Today, what ten or more of those vessels could carry are carried by a single vessel, discharged in few hours and the ships sails for another port in another country”.
“In those days we spent weeks if not months at ports waiting for loading or discharge to be completed. There was a time we had year-end celebrations at the Tin Can port. Can that happen today?, I doubt it”
Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, the founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders, NAGAFF and the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, who was ably represented by Dr. Francis Omotosho, who is the Registrar of the NAGAFF Academy, called on the Federal Government to pay greater attention to Nigeria’s Maritime Industry.
“Government need to invest more into the sector especially in the areas of capacity building; the training and retraining of maritime manpower will result in higher efficiency in port operations which will translate to more dividends to investors and returns to government as well” Aniebonam said
Alhaji Abubakar Garba Umar, former General Manager Warri Port, Tin Can and others prior to his retirement from the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, was a key participant at the 2nd National Discourse. A man with extensive experience on shipping and ship management, he advised that anyone who intends to venture into shipping must first seek knowledge to avoid regrets
“Shipping is a very complex, capital intensive business and a lot of persons go into it without preparations. Marine Insurance is one very vital component of shipping which must not be disregarded. NPA is inundated with complaints and claims on shipping loses arising from ignorance. This forum is therefore a very laudable initiative because it is about enlightenment, update on global developments and how to position ourselves strategically to remain relevant and central to shipping business in the sub region”, Umar said.
The Nigeria Shipowners Association (NISA) was another key participant/speaker at the 2nd National Discourse. NISA’s President, Otunba Sola Adewunmi, represented by Gbolahan Adu, the Public Relations Officer of the Association, called for capacity building for younger Nigerians who will eventually take over from ageing mariners
“While we make numerous plans, we have failed to incorporate the younger generation who will eventually take the reins of the industry. To advance in maritime, we must actively involve younger individuals in decision-making.” Otunba Sola Adewunmi said
Chief Michael Onuoha is the Chairman of the Ailes group of companies with diverse business interests in oil and gas operations, shipping/haulage services, real estate Agro-allied services, construction and mining amongst others.
As a business magnate, Chief Onuoha, who could not attend the event in person because of urgent business issues, was very ably represented.
Chief Onuoha was honoured as a Distinguished Maritime Personality, DMP, on account of his efforts at employment/wealth creation, philanthropy and contributions to maritime development in Nigeria, expressed sadness at the numerous policy somersault in the country.
“From the banking and finance sector, to aviation, insurance, shipping and maritime, government policies have not been consistent enough to drive the growth and progress we seek”, Chief Onuoha said.
He called on policy makers to be more nationalistic and futuristic in their developmental projections if Nigeria is to compete favourably with other countries of the world.
The ever ebullient, relentless maritime press was on ground to participate and cover the event comprehensively.
Presidents of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria, MARAN. Mr. Geoffrey Bivbere and Mr. Paul Ugbuokiri of Association of Maritime Journalists of Nigeria, AMJON, led other colleagues to the 2nd National Discourse.
Their probing questions, suggestions and observations threw open wide-ranging areas of conversations which thrilled the DMPs!.
True to its promise, the organizers diligently followed the laid out format of Introductions, Presentations, Discussions, Summation, Recognitions and VOT.
Time management was prioritized as the Chairman of the event in collaboration with the Master of Ceremony, the versatile Rowland Ekama of Daily Focus media ensured that the event proceeded smoothly and was rounded off with presentation of Maritime Nigeria’s Symbolic Plaque of Honour to the 2023 DMPs!