By Uche Usim
WITH over 90 per cent of global trade carried by sea, the maritime sector has proven itself as the nucleus of world economy.
The shipping sector also remains the most effective way to move complex goods and raw materials around the world and that makes it one of the highest employers of labour and revenue earner.
Legal luminary and seasoned Economic Analyst, Olisa Agbakoba insists the nation’s maritime sector has huge and untapped economic potentials such that the government can generate N7 trillion annually if repositioned.
He also says there is a nexus between improved maritime activities and poverty alleviation as the sector can generate thousands of direct and indirect jobs to engage the teeming population.
He said the jobs come in various forms like supply of seagoing personnel, labour for ship recycling, ship owning and operating, ship breaking, ship building and repairs, port operations, ICT, haulage, among others.
Agbakoba added that the dwindling oil revenues provide a perfect opportunity for the government and other stakeholders to latch on the myriads of opportunities the maritime sector provides.
Although there is an appreciable growth in the demand for shipping services in Nigeria, maritime experts say a lot still needs to be done to open more revenue generating arteries in the sector.
Besides, the nature of the Nigerian economy, which is import dependent, and oil economy which boosts her export cargo, indicates that the maritime industry will continue to be relevant to the nation’s economy, which would in turn require that modern infrastructures as well as adequate maritime security are provided.
Industry watchers say Nigeria should take a cue from a country like The Philippines that has harnessed its maritime potentials to the extent of being the highest exporter of seafarers.
From seafarer export alone, the country generates over $5 billion annually and that explains why there is hardly any maritime nation that does not employ Filipinos either on full or part time basis.
According to a member of the Presidential Committee on port reforms, Lucky Amiwero, successive administrations have continued to play politics with the nation’s maritime sector when experts or technocrats should run the place.
He said Nigeria has lost revenues and integrity due poor port infrastructure, systems and procedures.
“Monitoring and evaluation of stakeholders’ activities is key. Some laws need to be implemented like the Cabotage, Local Content and NIMASA Acts. When these are implemented, there would be thousands of youths that will be engaged and the pressure on the government to create jobs will be reduced. When these Acts are implemented, small service oriented companies can spring up. Experts should run the sector. It’s not a place for politics”, he said.