Nigeria Should Optimise Opportunities Maritime Sector Offers——Mustapha, NIWA MD
… To Meet Stakeholders, Put Together Sustainable Roadmap For The Sector
In view of the contribution of the maritime sector to the economy, the Managing Director, National Inland Waterways Authority, (NIWA) Mr. Boss Mustapha, has urged Africa countries especially Nigeria to take advantage of the opportunities in the maritime sector to increase trade and revenue profile of their respective states.
He stated that against the backdrop of the fact that 90 per cent of Africa’s imports and exports and more than 80 per cent of world trade are conducted by sea, constituting by far the most important means of goods transportation, it has become imperative for the continent, nay Nigeria, to optimise the opportunities offered by the maritime sector, otherwise referred to as the blue economy.
He said this during the “African Day Of the Seas and Ocean in Lagos recently
The ‘African Day Of the Seas and Ocean’ is set aside to draw attention to the raising importance of world trade conducted through the waterways.
He said that whereas highways and railways are the result of man’s labour and inventive genius, the Creator of the universe made waterways for the use and benefit of man.
Water transport, he said is the safest, most environmentally friendly and the cheapest means of carrying large cargo, of all the modes of transport known to man today, arguing that a single 15-barge tow of cargo on water would require about 225 railroad cars or 870 road trucks to transport same and that above all this, is its incomparably high levels of fuel efficiency – an increasingly expensive commodity today.
On the importance of maritime sector, the NIWA boss stated that the significance of the maritime sector in the economy cannot be over-emphasised, adding that maritime or water-borne carriage of economic goods and persons has played a key role in Nigeria’s development over the years, though it is still work-in-progress, in terms of investments in critical infrastructure, human capacity development, safety and security among others.
Maritime transport be it on the high seas or inland waterways, he said plays a key role in the movement of goods and services such as for the oil and gas industry, agro-industrial, solid minerals among others sectors, adding that Nigeria is naturally endowed with the second longest length of waterways in Africa ; an extensive coastline of about 852km, stretching from Badagry in the south west to Calabar in the south east and about 8,600 km of inland waterways with the international waters of the rivers Niger and Benue alone providing hundreds of kilometres of navigability all-year-round.
He stated that NIWA had between 2009 and 2013, overseen the capital and maintenance dredging of the river Niger from Warri in Delta State to Baro in Niger State, pointing out that with the sea ports in Warri and Port Harcourt, river ports in Onitsha, Oguta, Lokoja and Baro, the environment is ripe for the private sector to key into this subsector of the economy, providing the critical link to domestic and international trade.
This, he further stated would generate huge revenues for government and investors alike, in addition to the promotion of trade and commerce, job opportunities and employment creation, institutional development and the promotion of the tourism and leisure industry.
To buttress his point on how countries use maritime to drive trade and revenue, he cited the example of the United States, which according to him moves coal for the electricity industry, petroleum products, construction industry aggregates and cement, chemicals, including fertilizers, metal ores and minerals, heavy products such as steel and many other manufactured products are moved through its inland waterways.
According to him, “Shippers and consumers in the economies of 38 states in the USA depend on inland waterways to move about 630 million tonnes of cargo, valued at over 73 billion dollars annually! Moreover, 60%of the country’s farm exports travel by inland waterways.”
He added that in 2013, Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium, more than 10 per cent of total inland freight was transported on inland waterways and with this share increasing to more than 25 per cent in Bulgaria and Romania, adding that it peaked to over 47.1 per cent in the Netherlands, the same share as recorded for the freight on its roads.
Mustapha posited that he shares the sentiments of those who hold the view that earnings from the maritime sector, of which inland waterways is a key component, can compete favorably with revenues derived by Nigeria from oil exports but that these potential earnings will not fall like manna from the skies.
In his words, “We have to work for it and there is so much to be done by all of us. As our dear country battles recession as a fall-out of dwindling fortunes from oil, we must be innovative, pull up our sleeves and go to work day and night, to diversify the income base of our fledgling economy.”
NIWA under his stewardship, he posited intends to quickly bring together critical stakeholders; public and private to discuss, analyse and hopefully put together a sustainable roadmap for the speedy synthesis of the inland waterways subsector and its big sister, sea and ocean transportation, with a view to unleashing the trajectory of the huge potentials of this sector to the economy of our country, now and in the years ahead.