Uche Usim, Abuja
A strategic programme to grow non-oil export in Nigeria from $500 million to $1.2 billion annually is being fine-tuned under a tripartite deal involving the Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) and Sealink Promotional Company Limited.
The programme, among other things, seeks to bridge waterways infrastructure gap and enhance the country’s trade in the ECOWAS sub-region.
The tripartite memorandum of Understanding, which was sealed in Abuja was signed by the Managing Director, NEXIM Bank, Mr Abba Bello on behalf of his bank, while the Managing Director, NIWA, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora and the Chairperson of Sealink Implementation Committee Mrs Dabney Shall-Holma, signed on behalf of their agencies.
Speaking on the pact of the project, Bello said the agreement anchors on a public-private-partnership framework primarily designed to attract private sector investments under government agencies’ facilitative support at no cost to government.
The MoU, he added is intended to bridge infrastructure gap that will promote and enhance trade connectivity as well as spur Nigeria’s regional and global trade competitiveness.
Bello described the agreement as a significant milestone in the bank’s ongoing collaborations with all key national and regional maritime stakeholders, noting that it would be catalytic to the realization of one of the priority projects under the ECOWAS Community Development Programmes.
The NEXIM Bank boss further noted that the effective implementation of the Sealink project and the safe utilization of the inland waterways would bridge logistics gaps that will attract and facilitate investment inflows.
This, he noted, would contribute to the realization of one of the broad strategic objectives of the Economic Recovery and Growth Plan, which is building a globally competitive economy.
He said: “As a trade policy bank, NEXIM strategic interest and partnership in the regional Sealink Project is to promote and diversify exports as well as enhance trade connectivity in line with government’s objective to diversify the economy.
“Also, the bridging of maritime infrastructure gap is expected to significantly enhance exports of bulk solid minerals, thereby enhancing the Gross Domestic Product contribution of both shipping and solid minerals sectors from current levels of about 0.2 per cent.
“In value terms, it is projected that the signing of this Memorandum of Understanding would promote waterway operations for hinterland, transit and coastal trade, especially for bulk cargo.
“It is noteworthy to highlight that it is projected that this development would enhance non-oil exports annual revenue receipts to between $500m and $1.2bn annually on bulk solid minerals exports.”
In his remarks, the NIWA boss said that the pact was necessary to ensure full integration of the potentials of Nigeria’s resources.
Mamora said: “For too long our economy has been dependent on oil and its derivatives.
“Efforts to diversify are ongoing and our agricultural produce have been mostly landlocked, whilst the vast mineral resources have remained majorly untapped until lately when attention is being paid to solid minerals.
“Our Inland waterways system is underfunded hence we are denied the benefits of the potentials offered unlike a number of developed nations that have utilised their inland waterways as the mainstay for their industrialisation and economic prowess.
“This event marks another major step in the journey to reverse the dependence of our economy on oil and to open up the vast untapped opportunities that the inland waterways can offer.”
He said the realisation of inland waterways transportation would ensure safer roads.
He said the move would also ensure that the huge sums of money spent on road maintenance could be saved and used to develop other areas of needs including health, education and job creation.
He said NIWA’s endorsement of the MoU with NEXIM Bank and Sealink Consortium is a testimony of the viability of the inland waterway transportation network in Nigeria.