Uche Usim, Abuja
Hopes of a quick realisation of the Nigeria’s national fleet project brightened, at the weekend, as three ministries are believed to be working collaboratively to move the programme from vision to fruition.
Speaking while receiving members of the National Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC), led by the chairman, Hassan Bello, in his office, in Abuja, Minister of Budget and National Planning, Sen. Udoma Udo Udoma, said he was excited about the project because the focus of committee in realizing their mandate was totally consistent with thrust of nation’s economic blueprint -the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP).
The minister urged the committee to work with the Ministry’s technical team, which is managing the ERGP Focus Labs, to see the type of specific support the committee needs, even beyond known incentives.
He said the collaboration would help the Ministry decipher all the committee would require to succeed and capture same in the budget.
“Let your technical people can come and meet with ours so that we kick off. Implementation is key. You have our support,” he said.
Udoma assured the committee that he would also get the buy-in of the Ministries of Finance and Industries Trade and Investment for the project to be realized and made sustainable.
He said, “We will work together to get transportation incentives right.
“We will work with the Ministries of Trade and Finance so that it would succeed. The project is consistent with the ERGP. We need to generate more revenue.
“The project when operational will generate Forex, create massive jobs and expand our transport infrastructure.
“ERGP on its own also seeks economic growth. The current 0.05 per cent contribution of transportation to the GDP is low and will work with you to grow it.
We need GDP growth rate of 6-7 per cent for people to feel the impact in our economy, especially as our population grows.
“Supporting you will help Nigeria grow. It’s good to invest in our people and ultimately, this project will help realize global opportunities.
“Your work is implementation and we’ll support you to ensure it’s done. We need to focus on implementation”, Udoma stated.
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In his remarks, the NFIC Chairman, Hassan Bello, said the visit was to intimate the Minister on work done so far in realizing the project.
He lamented that Nigeria loses billions of naira annually to absence of a national fleet.
He said a total of $9,087,585,115 was paid as freight for dry and wet cargo to foreign ship owners by Nigeria in 2015 alone as there was no Nigerian owned fleet plying international trade.
He listed the benefits of a national fleet to include: supporting Federal Government’s economic diversification drive by stimulating the rise of various ancillary services, creating wealth and providing employment for Nigerians.
“Guarantee that Nigerian vessels obtain a fair share of Nigeria’s seaborne traffic; assist in the economic integration of West and Central Africa sub-region and enhancing the development of the nation’s Maritime sector with significant contribution to GDP”, Bello explained.
Also speaking, a member of the committee and Starz Marine Services, Greg Ogeifun, said the national fleet would help Nigeria compete better since local operators lack capacity to compete internationally as they are starved of various incentives enjoyed by their offshore counterparts.