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Experts set agenda for new administration

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By Timothy Akintola

Maritime investors urge for the insecurity challenges to be instantly addressed.

With the country preparing for a change of administration on May 29, investors in the maritime industry have intensified their efforts in calling for immediate development to be witnessed in the sector, which have been ravaged by numerous problems left unattended to by the outgoing administration. Some of these challenges include poor port infrastructure, under-development in shipping, insecurity, unease in operations, absence of synergy between the agencies and government bodies, lack of investment amongst others, all that have deprived the sector of needed development to drive Nigeria’s economic growth.

Recall that the Nigerian Export-Import (NEXIM) Bank, earlier that year, had revealed that the country was losing over $5 billion every year as freight payments for sniping operations, even without any concrete plans to domesticate the funds. President Muhammadu Buhari also disclosed that the country was losing an estimated sum $26.3 billion every year to maritime crimes. With the coming of a new governmental administration, stakeholders in the sector however pointed out areas that must be addressed.

Despite potential, maritime industry under siege by criminal entities.

Captain Fola Ojutalayo, a lecturer in the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, noted that the maritime security needed to be immediately addressed. He asserted that on the basis of the industry’s potential, it has come under immense siege by criminal entities that perpetrate acts of piracy, arms proliferation, sea robbery, crude oil terrorism, illegal and unregulated fishing and as such, urgent security measures should be implemented to curb this problem. In fact, he initiated that the sector needed a total port reform, as well as a new economic agenda and a general overhaul, especially with the Nigerian Customs Service.

The lecturer emphasized that immediate attention must be focused on the coastal states, explaining that the country needs to fully utilize its natural resources, like the 900 nautical miles coastline and 10,000km of navigable waterways, for the generation of more revenues to ensure the revitalization of our economy. He further said that this was the best time for the incoming administration to consider protecting the maritime trade, as a safe and effective shipping system would help in the diversification of the country’s economy.

ANLCA urges for the creation of a Ministry of Maritime Affairs.

Dr. Kayode Farinto, the acting President of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Custom Agents (ANLCA) also urged for the establishment of a ministry of the Maritime Affairs, for effective utilization of the industry’s potential. He called for the government to reduce the 15 percent levy placed on used vehicles and an increase in the manufacturing timeframe for imported used vehicles to 15 years. The secretary of ANLCA west zone, Nnamdi Ibekwe stated that the high duty levied on imported goods were crippling, with trade being affected in the decline of import and manufacturing.

Former President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Increase Uche indicated that there was an urgent need to mitigate the cargo clearing processes and vessel turnaround time across ports in the country. He further emphasized the need to salvage the breakdown of Customs Servers which had become a major concern in the cargo clearance process in Lagos. He explained that there was a need a better engagement scheme with stakeholders for implementation of the Vehicle Identification Number system. Nnadi Ugochukwu, a freight forwarder also called on the government to further invest in Information Technology infrastructures, to enhance trades.

Access roads to seaports to be prioritized for efficiency in the sector.

The Administration Secretary of the Association of Maritime Truck Owners of Nigeria (AMATO), Mohammed Sani, urged for immediate actions against the artificial extortion barrier that had immensely restricted the maritime haulage and logistics department from efficiently delivering. Matthew Alalade, the former President of the Nigeria Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff of Nigeria, emphasized the need for a national fleet and indigenous vessels for job creation and revenue generation. Patrick Ostia Chukwu, a maritime practitioner, noted that the access roads to seaports must be prioritized.

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