James Emejo in Abuja
The Nigerian Export-Import Bank (NEXIM), Sealink Consortium and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise and deepen the existing collaborative partnership as well as bridge infrastructure gap in the maritime sector.
The agreement is expected to promote and enhance trade connectivity among member states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Speaking at the signing ceremony over the weekend, Managing Director/Chief Executive, Nigerian Export – Import Bank, Mr. Abba Bello, said the deal would further spur the country’s regional and global trade competitiveness.
The agreement signified progress towards the eventual establishment of the Sealink Project, which was being promoted by NEXIM to facilitate trade connectivity in the sub-region.
Bello, said the initiative would boost annual non-oil revenue receipts to between $500 million and $1.2 billion through bulk solid minerals exports.
He said the regional Sealink project would promote and diversify exports as well as enhance trade connectivity in line with the present administration’s objective to diversify the economy.
He stressed that bridging the maritime infrastructure gap would significantly enhance exports of bulk solid minerals, thereby enhancing the GDP contribution of both shipping and solid minerals sectors from current levels of about 0.2 per cent.
He said: “The effective implementation of the Sealink project and the safe utilisation of the inland waterways would no doubt bridge logistics gaps that will attract and facilitate investment flows the two sectors.
“This will contribute to the realisation of one of the broad strategic objectives of ERGP, which is building a globally competitive economy.
“To this end, it will also contribute to improving Nigeria’s current World Bank ease of doing business and Logistics Performance Index (LPI) rankings.”
Essentially, he noted that the MoU represented a significant milestone in ongoing collaborations with all key national and regional maritime stakeholders, which would be catalytic to the realisation of one of the priority projects under the ECOWAS Community Development Programmes.
However, the Chairperson of the Sealink Implementation Committee, Mrs. Dabney Shallholma, said the agreement would improve logistics service delivery and enhance hinterland trade.
She noted that NEXIM’s developmental, facilitative and supportive roles in the Sealink project had been quite exemplary and typical of the roles of export credit agencies all over the world, which not only provide export finance but also work to mitigate challenges that impact sustainable trade.
She explained that Sealink was a public-private-partnership initiated by NEXIM for the prompting of the organised private sector –including NACCIMA / MAN Export Group.
According to her:”As it is currently, Sealink is being officially promoted by NEXIM, FEWACCI and Transimex S.A. Cameroun through a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV), the Sealink Promotional Company Ltd (SPCL) with nominal promotional shareholding and sponsorship framework.
“Sealink is fundamentally conceptualised and designed to bridge maritime transport infrastructure gap, amongst ECOWAS and CEMAC regions, as well as promote inland waterways operations towards facilitating regional integration and bulk cargo trade.
“It is also intended to facilitate reduction in logistics cost and the mitigating of unnecessary transit arrangements on regional trade.
“As an SPV that would soon transmute to a public commercial shipping company with regional and international shareholding structure, the operation of the SPV is being midwife by the Sealink Implementation Committee with strategic operational partnership support of the Sealink Consortium members who are collectively part of the MOU framework.”
Also, speaking at the occasion, the Managing Director/Chief Executive, NIWA, Mr. Olorunnimbe Mamora, said the agreement was a major milestone in the development of the maritime infrastructure which is necessary to ensure full integration of the potentials of the country’s resources.
He added that the event further marked a major step in the journey to reverse the country’s dependence on oil and open up the vast untapped opportunities which the inland waterways could offer.
He said: “The realisation of the inland waterway transportation will not only ensure safer roads but will ensure that the huge sums of money spent on road maintenance can be diverted to other areas of needs including health, education and job creation.”