Operators in the maritime sector have lamented the appointment of neophytes by previous government as ministers of transport who did not do anything for the industry and expressed doubt over the ability of the present transport minister, Rotimi Ameachi, to salvage the situation but called on relevant stakeholders in the sector to support him to succeed.
They also called on the federal government to appoint relevant professionals to fill the various offices in the sector this year if the vast potential of the industry must be explored and expressed dissatisfaction that despite the huge potentials of the industry, all their efforts to make past governments pay attention to it in the last twenty years have not produced meaningful result.
Chairman of the Nigeria Shipowners Association, NISA, Capt. Niyi Labinjo, who stated this recently, urged government to strengthen its various agencies in the sector and ensure that professionals are appointed to man these agencies.
He expressed happiness about the fall in the prices of crude oil, noting that it would force the present government to finally pay attention to the sector which is capable of not only funding the budget but providing employment for millions of youths.
The agencies in the sector are Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, Nigeria Customs Service, NCS and National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA.
He said government must focus on the shipping sector of the industry because of the huge potential for the economy. He said the sector is more than capable of providing the N2 trillion needed to fund the budget. He advised that the smuggling of petroleum products through the off-shore Lome and off-shore-Togo must be stopped because of the effect on the nation’s economy.
He explained that a 5,000 ton vessel laden with Automated Gas Oil, AGO, cost N600 million. He noted that the nation’s daily fuel consumption need according to the NNPC is about 1.8 million litres and that the government agency is importing half that quantity while the other half is smuggled into the country.
He pointed out that 900,000 litres divided by 5,000 litres comes down to about 180 and should this be multipled by N600 million, it comes down to N108,000,000,000.00. A large chunk of this amount is lost daily through smuggling of the product, he said. This is outside the revenue that should have been collected by the various government agencies like the NPA, NIMASA, NCS etc should these ships had berthed at the nation’s ports.
He said the economic crime against the nation is being committed by foreign vessel that ship in these product informing their countries that they are headed for Nigeria, only for them to stop at the high seas where these products are discharged into smaller vessels and moved into Nigeria.
He noted that 68 percent of these products get into the country unaccounted for and this cost the nation huge revenue loss in terms of capital flight, since the transaction is done in cash, (not captured in the economy), creation of employment for foreign countries, crew of each of the ship and negative effect of balance of trade.
He said the Nigeria presently have no control over about 200 vessels involved in this illegal trade outside the nation’s territorial ways and that alone posses a security risk to the nation, especially with the security situation in the country presently. The retired Navy officer, stressed that government must as a matter of urgency stop the smuggling of petroleum products into the country, as well as ensure that the Cabotage law is enforced fully.
Former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye, called on the minister of transportation to focus his action of proper implementation of the Cabotage Act as this will open up development in the industry.