Uche Usim and Blessing Mark, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, on Tuesday, said his administration was repositioning the nation’s maritime sector as the country’s main economic driver and fulcrum for diversification.
The President made the declaration in Abuja at the launch of a book ‘Harnessing Nigeria’s Maritime Assets – Past, Present and Future’, written by Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, the Executive Director, Finance and Administration of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Represented by the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, the President said the Nigerian maritime sector boasts of rich and barely untapped assets, pointing out that with reforms and proper investments in the sector, the country will grow exponentially.
He said the reforms had already started with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which has been so far transformed from a contract-awarding agency to a true industry regulator it was created to be.
He noted poor attention paid to the sector by past administrations robbed it the capacity to effectively play a pivotal in economic development.
He then assured that all would be done to grow the sector, especially in the urgent task of boosting non-oil revenue sources.
The President noted that many shippers and stakeholders have been angling for the disbursement of the cabotage funds, saying the money was being kept and will be appropriately spent at the right time, for the purpose it was created for.
“We will not bring the cabotage fund out to be shared. The previous administration blew the cabotage fund. There’s a new NIMASA in place today. It’s not a contract awarding agency.
“Cabotage money was spent on maritime faculties here and there in many universities and yet we really have nothing to show for all these huge spending.
“There was affluence with the former NIMASA DG which is not available today. This is a different era. A lot of people ask this current DG why he’s not spending like his predecessor.
“We inherited a wrecked economy where sharing money was the basic survival of it. Read the book, it’ll improve you”, he said.
Deputy Governor of Ogun State, Yetunde Onanuga, who represented Governor Ibikunle Amosun at the event, described Jamoh’s 221-page book as a product of well-researched work.
She added that the book will further develop the economy of Nigeria by further elucidating ways of diversifying the economy.
Also speaking at the event, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said the book has the capacity take the nation’s economy to the next level.
He assured the gathering that the Federal Government will take recommendations in the book seriously.
In his goodwill message, the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Hassan Bello, said the writer remains a strong resource person in the maritime sector.
He urged Nigerians to read the book to get some knowledge of the workings of the maritime sector.
Also speaking, the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai said the book was rich and encapsulated ways of taking the sector to the next level.
Gen. Buratai said the Nigerian Army has been protecting the maritime assets of Nigeria for several decades and will continue to do so.
“Security is vital to making the Nigerian maritime assets work. I urge NIMASA not to forget the Lake Chad region as it is a gold mine. We’re working hard to tackle the security challenges and stabilise the region.
“The Lake Chad can compete with coastal areas. We want NIMASA to carry out further research to see what we have and what we can harness in the Lake Chad region”, the Army chief said.