President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday in Abuja, identified the need for African countries to join efforts to preserve the African-rich maritime resources in order to protect sea foods, achieve food security and earn foreign exchange through export of sea foods.
President Buhari, who said this on Thursday in Abuja while declaring open the third edition of the Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) Conference, noted that, “several other initiatives, which demonstrate the critical importance in food and environmental uncertainty, and the enormous untapped potential for the making of a strong self-reliant African economy, lies in the blue economy.
“African fishing grounds are being pillaged, its waters polluted, and piracy is heightening maritime insecurity and causing increase in the cost of maritime insurance and trade. The regulatory and legal framework to properly manage maritime resources and overcome these challenges are still inadequate, and we are yet to fully develop the human and institutional capacities required to respond appropriately to these challenges,” said the President who was represented by Vice President Yemi Osibanjo at the two-day event organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
According to Buhari, Africa is on the right path and there is need for more collaborations and synergy to develop the maritime sector beginning from the national, regional and sub-regional levels.
“Here in Nigeria, we have taken steps to tackle some of the challenges peculiar to us while still requiring regional and sub-regional collaboration,” he said.
To him, government is giving the required support to the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies to effectively police the waterways for trade to flourish. “This arrangement will also eliminate piracy and sea robbery within our maritime domain. The results are encouraging and piracy has dropped in the last six months,” the President.
The President, who stated that government had paid significant attention to making it easier to do business in the seaports, said measures designed to improve the efficiency of the ports and to enable quick turnaround time of vessels, were put in place.
“Technology is also been deployed to make our port operations more transparent and effective to support of economic growth. NIMASA, which is the regulatory agency of shipping and maritime activities in Nigeria is been reformed so that it can play its expected role as a facilitator of economic prosperity,” he said.
He however advised the delegates to figure out a coherent and collaborative response to the challenges facing the continent’s maritime sector, which according to him required cooperation among states, agencies and other players like the private sector.
“It will entail focusing on human capacity development, including strengthening the coast guard function to police our water ways. It means that governance issues and appropriate legislative measures must be put on the front burner alongside timely exchange of information. Issues of maritime security and safety must continue to receive the needed attention as we strive to make Africa a strong player in the international maritime community,” he said.
Also speaking, Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transportation, said Nigeria, through the hosting of the event, wished to reinstate its commitment to continually contribute to the growth of the maritime sector in the continent and globally.
According to Amaechi, the conference is aimed at tackling the problems facing African maritime, which being limited by many challenges that include insignificant share of cargo; low tonnage; piracy and sea robbery; undeclared and unregulated fishing, and environmental degradation.
“The worst of all is there is no African flagged vessels benefiting from cargo lifting, and our waterways still wallow in servitude. Our human capacity is greatly underdeveloped, leaving us to rely on foreigners to drive our industry. There is also near total absence of trained coast-guard to monitor our maritime domain,” the minister observed.
Dakuku Peterside, director-general of NIMASA, said in his welcome speech that the African Union (AU) special summit of Heads of Government in Lome, Togo, adopted a Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development aimed at making Africa’s maritime space the key driver of the continent’s socio-economic development and further reinforce the critical role maritime could play in the development of Africa.
The conference provides African Maritime Administrations a platform to give effect to the various charters adopted by the heads of government that include the AIM 2050, Agenda 2063 and Lome charter, Peterside said.
Bukola Saraki, Senate president, who said there was need for convergence of all African nations to curtail the huge losses recorded by the industry in the continent, also urged the delegates to discuss how the continent could put an end to it being used as a dumping ground by foreign nations.
Yakubu Dogara, speaker, House of Representatives, observed the need to tighten regulation so as to put an end to the loss of over 20 billion euros to foreigners, which characterised Africa fishing trade.
There is need for Africans to take charge of their affairs by involving indigenous shipowners in ocean trade in place of leaving foreigners to hijack the trade, he said.