‘FG Poised to Make Nigeria Maritime Hub’

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Eromosele Abiodun

The federal government has restated its resolve to make Nigeria the maritime and oil and gas hub in the West African sub-region.

The Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mrs. Hadiza Bala-Usman, who disclosed this Wednesday, during a facility tour of the Lagos Deep Offshore Logistics (LADOL) base in Apapa pilotage area, said the move has become necessary considering the potential of the country as a major maritime player, globally.

The NPA boss made the remark in response to a call by her host, the Managing Director of LADOL, Dr. Amy Jadesimi to the government to urgently address the lingering issue in the sector to ensure a level playing ground for operators, if the dream of making Nigeria a hub station is to be achieved.

Bala Usman said government was not unaware of the need to uphold local content drive in the industry as a veritable means of mass job creation, and in the overall interest of the nation’s economy.

According to her, “We will look at all issues as relates to making Nigeria a hub. We will ensure that there is transparency and accountability in the port’s operations system in a way that all ports related businesses will strive within the marine environment.

“We have visited and I must say that I am particularly impressed at the level of investments here. I am impressed at your move to boost local content in the industry…we really need to bring in local content strongly in order to ensure employment for our people of Nigeria.”

The NPA boss was accompanied by her management team that included the Executive Director, Marine and Operations, Davies Sekonte, the Executive Director, Engineering and Technical services, Idris Abubakar, and other top management staffers.

Earlier, the LADOL boss took the visiting team on a tour of the yard where the first ever fabrication of a $3.8 billion Floating Production Storage and Offloading vessel, otherwise known as Egina project was taking place within the LADOL base.

She explained further: “This project is the first of its kind in Africa and sitting it at an indigenous facility like LADOL speaks volumes of our national resolve and determination to take our pride of place as the regional hub.”

According to her, the vessel with a length of 340 meters and 70 meters wide has reached an advanced stage of completion as the entire project had already gulped no less than $4 billion dollars in which LADOL had put in $500 million in local content.

“We started development in 2004 when we got the first lease from NPA and our mission and vision has been to see a situation where Nigeria will join its foreign counterparts such as Korea, China in creating industrial zones that will take us to the future.

“We look forward to moving Nigeria forward along the line of other developed countries of the world where private indigenous development is the key to economic growth. It makes sense because Nigeria has a huge market for this, going by the population, “she said.

To achieve this, Jadesimi appealed to the ports’ management to not only ensure a level playing ground for all operators to coexist, but also ensure what she called, “local collaboration between private sectors and between the private sectors and public sector”.

She added, “What we are seeing in the private sector for now ids the ‘zero sum game’ mainly because historically we have had a situation whereby there is a very small market and everybody is fighting to have a 100 per cent control of the small market.

“Local collaboration is what you see in South Korea whereby one company is supporting 100 other companies because they all know that to be able to attract the level of business that will develop the entire country; they all need to work together.”

She noted that LADOL has since keyed into this model hence it embarked on local fabrication as a way of creating jobs, and adding value to the economy.

“So the idea behind LADOL is to do what has been successfully done in China-that is, to create an industrial free zone that enables us to prove to the world that you can economically support the largest project in the world such as this Egina FPSO project in Nigeria. Once you do that, you then have a situation where people are happy to work here, do business here all at cost saving operations because it is cheaper to have Nigerians work here than to hire foreigners.

“Our prayers are that government should continue to support private investments such as LADOL because no foreigner can love Nigeria more than Nigerians. We appeal to the MD of NPA to therefore see the need to bring all the stakeholders-both private and public together in a round table and together we all key into the master plan of how to make Nigeria the West African hub,” she stated.