President of African Maritime Journalists Association (AMJA), Mr. Sesan Onileimo has urged African leaders to close ranks on maritime security to boost the continent’s economy.
Onileimo, who was recently inaugurated as the leader of the continental association, made the call in Lagos.
Delivering a speech shortly after the Executive Committee of the association was inaugurated, he urged African leaders to work together to check the excesses of sea pirates and secure their waterways.
The pioneer president of the association said it was not by chance that 38 out of the 54 African countries were coastal states.
According to him, “This is a calculated plan by nature to make the region a blue economy that can trigger economic advancement in other sectors. There is vast endowment in aquatic and non-aquatic resources, including oceans, seas, coasts, lakes and underground waters.
The rising insecurity in the rich Gulf of Guinea is scaring and can spur investor’s boycott of the region. Intra sub-regional trade is doing well to drive the cost of moving goods from one country to another in the North Africa. It will better if such trend is broadened in other African States.”
He said that the spirit behind the recent African Union’s Extraordinary Summit on Maritime Security, Safety and Development in Africa hosted by the government of Togo was apt.
He said that a secure waterway could give life to many productive sectors such as fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, transport, ship building, energy, bio-prospecting and underwater mining, among others.
“If leaders can harmonise their shipping and trade-related policies to further reduce barriers to trade and free movement of goods and persons, the blue economy will sustain Africa,’’ he said.
Also speaking at the event, Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Ameachi assured that the federal government is committed to building a virile platform through the implementation of policies and programmes that will further enhance the contributions of the maritime sector to the overall economy of the country.
The minister added that the federal government has signed an undisclosed commercial contract agreement with the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) on the Calabar and Port Harcourt coastal rail project segment which will extend from Onne port in Rivers state to boost transportation.
Represented by an official in the Ministry, Mrs Ijeoma Chijioke Adindu, the minister stated that the federal government is desirous of ensuring that the maritime sector played more commensurate role in galvanising the economy of Nigeria.
He explained that the coastal rail line project was aimed at giving heed to the call for a more seamless cargo delivery at the ports.
He said: “In continuation of government’s effort to improve ports efficiency and ensure seamless movement of cargoes within the country, the federal government recently signed commercial contract agreements with the Calabar-Port Harcourt segment 1 extending to the Onne deep seaports of the coastal rail project with CCECC.”
The minister further said that, “The federal government is also determined to enforce the provision of coastal and inland shipping (Cabotage Act 2003),which is an important pillar for home grown capacity for the sustainable development of the Nigeria maritime industry.”
Also speaking at the event, President of Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr. Waheed Odusile called on maritime reporters in the country to come under one umbrella.
He stressed the need for all journalists in the maritime sector to come together as under a single body, adding that the national body, the NUJ is desirable of ensuring unity among all media practitioners.
Odusile noted that the proliferation of various maritime reporters’ groups would not help the sector in the area of dissemination of information.
Urging AMJA to galvanise this, he stressed that maritime reporters should come together .
“I want to appeal to maritime reporters that it is better to come under one umbrella in the profession than been divided “, he stated. According to him, if the advice is not taken, the NUJ will not hesitate to step in.
Advising members of the AMJA executives, the NUJ boss stressed the need for the newly-inaugurated executive council to project the importance of maritime reportage to the continent and indeed the world.