Distinguished Senator Ahmed Sani Rufai led-Senate Committee on Marine Transport has given self-appraisal of its activities, enumerating what it considered as achievements, since it started sitting more than three years ago.
No fewer than 10 bills covering several aspects of the maritime industry were listed as some of its achievements. The bills which are at various stages of passage in the upper and lower chambers of the National Assembly include, the Nigerian Ports Authority (Act repeal and re-enactment) Bill 2016; National Transport Commission Bill 2006; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act (Amendment) Bill, 2018; Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage Act) Bill, 2018; and Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill 2018.
Others are the National Inland Waterways Act CAPN47 (Repeal and Re-Enactment) Bill 2016; Nigeria Coastal Guards (Establishment) Bill 2018; United Nations Conventions on the Law of the Sea 1958 and 1982) Bill 2017; and the Maritime Security Operations Co-ordinating Board Act (Amendment) 2018.
Apart from its intervention and execution of its statutory functions which include making laws and oversight, the committee which comprises seasoned legislators, including two former governors, listed a number of strides it has made so far.
Rufai stated this in Lagos at a one-day maritime stakeholders’ assembly organised by the committee in conjunction with the Federal Ministry of Transportation. The event tagged a “Lunch with the Senate” attracted several stakeholders, including the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside; Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC), Mr. Hassan Bello; Chairman, Sea Terminals Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), Princess Victoria Haastrup; President of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS), Mr. Andy Isichei; and the President of Women in Maritime Africa (WIMAFRICA), Mrs. Jean Anishere.
Others are maritime journalists, ship chandlers, freight forwarders, top officials of parasatals in the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigerian Navy, security agencies, and officials of the Federal Ministry of Transportation.
Shipping magnate and former Chairman, Indigenous Ship Owners Association (ISAN), Chief Isaac Jolapamo; trawler operator, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi; and the former President, Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Dr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN also used the event to bemoan the poor fortunes of the maritime industry over the years, in spite of its huge potentials.
Rufai who is an erstwhile governor of Zamfara State stated that the committee would leave no stone unturned in ensuring that every bill relevant to the growth of the maritime sector got the required attention and legislative backing within the shortest time possible.
He called on stakeholders to join forces with the committee in its recent efforts to pay more attention to the development of the maritime sector as it has enormous resources that can boost the economy of Nigeria.
His words: “One of the reasons we are here is to bring the parliament to the stakeholders and discuss the progress, challenges and the way forward for the realisation of a robust maritime sector in Nigeria. We will, therefore, depend on feedbacks from the stakeholders, which will help in our legislative processes.”
According to him, the Senate was willing to partner with stakeholders in the sector through proper legislation to find ways of harnessing the opportunities that abound in the maritime sector for the country’s economic prosperity.
Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi in his remarks noted that the Federal Government was committed to the growth of the maritime sector. He however argued that this could only be achieved through what he called “proper legislation”.
Amaechi who was represented by the Director, Maritime Services in his ministry, Mr. Galadenchi also pledged the commitment of the ministry to partner with the Senate and stakeholders to enable the Nigerian maritime sector fully realise the enormous opportunities within it.
Goodwill messages were also presented by some stakeholders. Peterside commended the committee for its doggedness and patriotism in ensuring that the sector took its rightful place in the comity of maritime nations through the legislative backing.
He reiterated the agency’s commitment to the realisation of what he called a “robust maritime sector” in the country through collaboration with the committee and other stakeholders.
He also called for synergy among sister agencies in the maritime sector, saying that was the only way to fully harness the opportunities in the sector. He pointed out that collaboration was the only way our country would grow and the maritime sector must not be left out.
“Let me therefore state categorically that through synergy with relevant stakeholders, there will be massive boom in the maritime sector and, by extension, the entire economy”, he said.
The NIMASA helmsman appealed to the Senate to ensure speedy passage of the anti-piracy bill presently before it to provide a legal backing for the prosecution of issues relating to piracy and other criminal activities in Nigeria’s territorial ways.
Former Director General of NIMASA, Mr. Temisan Omatseye said one of the ways to optimise the benefits of the maritime sector, was to decentralise the ports and make them more attractive and competitive. He said this would help to boost investors’ confidence and decongest the traffic situation in Lagos ports.
Chairman of the Ports Consultative Council (PCC), Otunba Kunle Folarin, welcomed the Federal Government’s attempt to provide viable port access roads in the country.
According to him, an efficient multimodal transport system is the only way to realise a viable maritime sector that can compete favourably with others in the world.
Jolapamo expressed dismay over government’s lack of political will to address the challenges plaguing the shipping sector of the economy, policies inconsistencies and somersault, have continued to remain the bane of the maritime industry over the years.
Facing the direction of Peterside who was among those seated on the high table, Jolapamo said: “Check your ship registry, if you are in doubt of what I am saying. My company has not less than 30 vessels in it. But as I speak to you, we have no ship sailing anywhere. I am over 70 years old. With the way things are going, I have lost hope in the shipping sector of the economy. As long as we are not making headway in ship development and the sustainable development of the maritime industry, we are going nowhere as a country”.
On his part, Agbakoba wondered why the maritime industry does not have a ministry overseeing it like aviation, instead of lumping it with other critical sectors in one umbrella in the Ministry of Transportation.
The erudite lawyer argued that this was one of the reasons why the maritime industry was not getting the attention it deserves in the scheme of things.
Agbakoba maintained that if aviation which contributes little or nothing to the economy can have a ministry to itself, then the maritime industry which remains the life wire of the economy, after oil, should be given a separate ministry.
Orakwusi told the gathering that she has lost two of her vessels to pirates in the Nigeria waters, adding that the Federal Government must rise up to the challenge insecurity and inadequate funding in the shipping sector of the economy.
While bemoaning the state of the access roads to the nation’s seaports, other stakeholders who spoke at the event, called on the committee to assist in finding a lasting solution to the congestion in the port access roads.
They also emphasised the need for the government to pay more attention to the maritime sector for the country’s economic prosperity.