By Eromosele Abiodun
Following the huge potential that the maritime industry holds, some stakeholders have called on the National Assembly to champion a complete reform of the maritime sector by sponsoring and enacting a bill that will lead to the creation of Ministry of Maritime Industry (MoMI).
When created, the stakeholders said the ministry, would assist the federal government to restore the lost glory of shipping and maritime sector of the economy.
Speaking at a forum organised by the Senate Committee on Marine Transport in collaboration with the Federal Minister of Transport in Lagos, the founding president of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS), Mr Olisa Agbakoba and other stakeholders urged members of the National Assembly to impress it on the federal government to create a special ministry for the maritime sector and introduce other reforms that will bring about efficiency and productivity at the nation’s sea ports.
Agbakoba, a front line maritime lawyer also bemoaned the collapsed of the ports access roads and decried the situation, which has resulted to additional transportation costs as a result of inaccessibility to the ports, which warranted demurrage on both empty and loaded containers.
According to him, “What we need is appropriate policy mechanism and appropriate legal framework and appropriate institutions. We really do not need the maritime industry under the ministry of transport; what we need is a ministry of shipping.”
While narrating the trouble people were facing going and coming from the Lagos ports, Agbakoba urged members of the committee and the federal government to direct the contractor handling the Ijora bridge to fix the failed section of the bridge to reduce the hardship.
On her part, the Chairman, Seaport Terminal Operators Association of Nigeria (STOAN), the umbrella body of terminal operators in the country, Vicky Haastrup, said that the closure of a section of the Ijora Bridge, which links Apapa to other parts of the Lagos metropolis through the Wharf Road, contributed significantly to the problem of quick cargo clearance from the ports.
Terminal operators, she said, were facing serious challenges in paying their workers because of the numbers of days it takes to berth vessel at their terminals because of the gridlock.
Also speaking, the Chairman of Port Consultative Forum, Kunle Kunle and other speakers at the event suggested improvement in infrastructure and service delivery, among others, as a way of getting better overall productivity in the industry.
The Director -General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside; the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC) Mr Hassan Bello and Managing Director Nigerian Inland Waterways (NIWA), Olorunnibe Mamora, commended the committee for bringing legislative matter to the door step of Nigerians.
The committee members, the trio said, deserved commendation based on their patriotic and pragmatic approach to issues of national interest.
The heads of the maritime agencies assured the committee of their support and collaboration to move the industry forward.
Enelamah Calls for Collaboration to Enhance Ease of Doing Business
The Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Okechukwu Enelamah, recently reiterated that the current administration believes a conducive business environment is crucial to achieving the government’s diversification agenda.
He pointed out that even though significant milestones had already been recorded, the greatest effect would only be possible with the active collaboration of state and local governments.
Enelamah, was quoted in a statement, to have said this at the 10th meeting of the National Council on Industry, Trade and Investment, with the theme, “Ease of Doing Business: The Role of States and Local Governments,” which took place in Abia State.
He pointed out that President Muhammadu Buhari had shown strong political will by establishing and supporting the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council (PEBEC) with an ambitious mandate of removing constraints and bottlenecks in doing business in Nigeria and by signing the Executive Order 001 which promotes transparency, default approvals and one government.
The minister took stock of some of the successes recorded by the government so far in diverse areas.
“Business registration in Nigeria can now be concluded within 48 hours with the automated platform by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC),” he said.
On trading across borders, Enelamah listed some of the completed reforms to include reduction in import documentation requirements from 14 to 8 and export documents from 10 to 7, introduction of advance cargo manifests and scheduling of joint physical examination anchored by the Nigerian Customs Service.
Other reforms, according to him, included the passage and signing into law of two bills to ease access to credit for MSMEs.
“These two Bills are the Secured Transactions in Movable Assets Act 2017 and the Credit Reporting Act 2017,” Enelamah said.
He stated that the Bank of Industry (BOI) had “reviewed its credit processes to customers with a view to reducing the turn-around time associated with loan applications and approvals.
“BOI has also reformed loan application process to provide clear and easily accessible information to the public on processes, timelines, fees and conditions.
“Technologies were deployed to improve service delivery in the Ministries in the areas of SME platform, digitizing and simplifying the provision of government services. Examples include Commercial Law Department in our Ministry, digitising One Stop Investment Centre and Pioneer Status Incentives Processes at the Nigeria Investment Promotion Council,” he said.
Enelamah also disclosed that the federal government on 27th July, 2018 issued a directive, compelling all Ministries, Departments and Agencies to comply with the Ease-of- Doing Business Reforms.
“These reforms are beginning to yield positive results on the World Bank’s Ease–of-Doing Business ranking. The World Bank also ranked Nigeria during the first three years of President Buhari’s Administration as one of the 10 most reforming and improved economies in the World,” he said.
The minister said the next frontier of these reforms can only work with the active collaboration of state and local governments who need to come up with relevant Doing Business reforms.