By Eromosele Abiodun
The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside has stated that efforts by the federal government to check piracy will provide the necessary assurance to foreign investors that Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea, to a large extent, is a safe hub for international trade.
Speaking shortly after the unveiling of the Nigerian Maritime Forecast 2019-2020 in Lagos, Peterside opined that the maritime sector has the potential of increasing greatly its contribution to Nigeria’s gross domestic products (GDP) in no distant future, as the country has the biggest market in Africa.
He noted that the country generates about 65-67 per cent of cargo throughput in West Africa, and 65 per cent of all cargo heading for these regions will most likely end up in the Nigerian market.
He stated that the maritime sector remains a pivot to the stability and growth of the economy, hence the need to provide guidance to industry players as it will attract more foreign direct investment and ultimately improve the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
On the regulatory aspect of the 2019 forecast, he stated that, “it is expected that the Maritime Offenses Bill (Anti-Piracy) will be passed into law within the margin of the 8th National Assembly to provide a robust and detailed framework to criminalise and punish piracy and unlawful acts in the Nigerian maritime domain as well as give further expression to the relevant provisions of the International Maritime Convention on maritime security to which Nigeria is a party.
“Other Bills that would impact on the sector are National Transport Commission Bill, Petroleum Industry Governance Bill, National Inland Waterways Authority Amendment Bill, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Amendment/Revised Bill and Ports and Harbour Bill.”
He said stakeholders in the Nigeria maritime sector may contend with challenges such as funding, ethnological change, supply of specialised maritime industry skill set, and efficiency of Ports and Shipping Companies amongst others in 2019.
Peterside, who observed that the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) is not adequate to handle the huge demand for maritime assets, noted that the agency is working with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and the Federal Ministry of Finance to push for funds at single digit interest rate.
“It is instructive to note that the domestic conditions for the maritime sector in 2019 looks tighter considering the budgetary proposal of N8.83 trillion when compared to the approved N9.12trillion naira appropriated in the 2018 national budget.
“It is noteworthy that while growth in the global maritime sector is expected to slow over the next five years with crude oil projected to decline by 0.1 per cent, containerized trade to decline by 0.4 per cent and seaborne trade by 0.2 per cent, Total fleet increase was projected at slightly over 4 per cent growth for both 2019 and 2020. The baseline forecast is based on the 2018 outcome and 2019 Economic Recovery and Growth Plan (ERGP) forecast for total trade and foreign reserve,” he said.
He added: “The optimistic forecast is based on the assumption that total trade will increase to N28.55trillion in 2019 and N30.11 trillion in 2020, while foreign reserves is $44.7 billion in 2019 and projected to be $61.7 billion in 2020. NIMASA has an optimistic projection of a 0.67 per cent increase in 2019 and same to be maintained in 2020.