Unlocking Nigeria’s Maritime Potential

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Recently, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh delivered a lecture in Abuja where he made eye-popping revelations on Nigerian maritime potential. Olaoluwakitan Babatunde, dissects the lecture, and returns with the verdict that the sector could be Nigeria’s next big thing if prevailing challenges are addressed

The occasion was the lecture on “Maritime Security and National Development in Nigeria: The Role of NIMASA”. The venue was the Nigeria Defence College, Abuja, Nigeria’s apex institution for the training of her senior military officers. The audience was the Course 29 of the College as well as the Command and full compliments of the College’s Faculty led by the Commandant, Rear Admiral Mackson Kadir.

The guest lecturer was the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, who left no one in doubt that he understood the Nigerian maritime sector, its challenges, and prospects like the back of his hands. One could have heard the drop of a pin on floor throughout his presentation as the former Executive Director (Finance and Administration) in NIMASA, holder of doctorate degree in Logistics and Transport Management, Master’s degree in Management from the Korea Maritime and Ocean University in South Korea, Professional Certificate in Materials Management from the Institute of Logistics in the UK, members of the Institute of maritime Economists in Canada, and attendee of management courses at the Said Business School, Oxford University, United Kingdom (UK) and the Institute of Public Partnerships in Washington DC, United States (US), held the audience spellbound as he brought both knowledge, intellect, and experience to bear in his delivery.

The $1.6 trillion annual maritime potential
Can the Nigerian maritime sector generate $1.6 trillion dollar into the nation’s treasury per annum? Hyperbolic as it sounds, Dr. Jamoh said it was achievable as the country could actually net from the maritime sector 30 times her annual earnings from oil.
“The capacity of all this opportunities (in the maritime sector) is going to generate not less than 1.6trillion dollars, according to a World Bank research. This can be done, if we can properly harness all these investment opportunities and have foreign investors come and assist to develop those areas”, he stated.

The world’s most dangerous waters
Enumerating several factors, which he said, “hamper the achievement of that millage or Nigeria producing that $1.6 billion per annum”, the NIMASA DG decried Nigeria’s unsafe waters.
“The International Maritime Bureau, IMB, recently released report this Third Quarter, rated Nigeria as having the most dangerous waters in terms of maritime security”, he stated. This is owing to rampant pirate and armed robbery attacks on vessels and seafarers.

In its October 2020 report, the IMB described the Gulf of Guinea as the “world’s piracy hotspot”, noting that out of the 85 seafarers kidnapped from their vessels and held for ransom between the beginning of 2020 and September, 80 were taken in the Gulf of Guinea in 14 attacks reported off Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana.

“On 17 July 2020, eight pirates armed with machine guns boarded a product tanker underway around 196 nautical miles southwest of Bayelsa, Nigeria. They held all 19 crewmembers hostage, stole ship’s documents and valuable items, and escaped with 13 kidnapped crew. The tanker was left drifting with limited and unqualified navigational and engine crew onboard. A nearby merchant vessel later helped the tanker to sail to a safe port.
“A more recent example was on 8 September 2020, when armed pirates attacked a refrigerated cargo ship underway around 33 nautical miles south-southwest of Lagos, Nigeria”, IMB reports.

Meanwhile, Nigeria loses about $25.5 billion annually to illegal maritime activities in her waters, the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation loses about $1.35 billion on Illegal bunkering, while the cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, security, and insurance has been estimated to be about $2 billion. Consequently, countries of Gulf of Guinea are sidelined in global maritime governance.

One of the implications of such low rating is the negative image it creates for the country.
“Today, anywhere you go outside the country and you are discussing with someone conversant with the maritime sector, the first thing he will start to think about is the position of Nigeria in terms of maritime insecurity. So, how can you attract foreign investors when they don’t have confidence in your maritime security based on the IMB’s report, which by the way is an unbiased report?, he queried.

Jamoh said there was equally the direct negative impact on shipping in term of ports of cargo and ship diversion as “those who understand the terrain very well will never agree to bring their ship into the country”. They would rather divert their ship to the neighbouring countries like Ghana, Togo, and Benin Republic so that they can discharge their cargoes without the headache of maritime crime.

There is also the consequential impact on cost of freight. According to him, although a cargo from the UK to the US would have to be transported almost double the distance UK to Nigeria, the cost of freight from Nigeria to UK will be much higher because of maritime insecurity.

Yet, there is the high cost of insurance to worry about as Nigerians pay war premium even when the country is not at war.
“The international community, the stakeholders in the merchant industry, and the merchant cargoes sat down and looked at the risks associated with going to Nigeria and they decided that the insurance must be increased. At the end of the day, what we are paying is war premium, which translates to the high cost of that cargo, which in turn links to the other point of inflationary impact on goods and services”, he explained.
In the face of such odds, inflation becomes inevitable from time to time.

The Enabling Triangle: Way forward
Drawing from the concept of The Enabling Triangle in his 2018 book entitled “Harnessing the Nigerian Maritime Assets”, Dr. Jamoh said the nation must address the issue of good governance of the maritime sector squarely to tap its potentials.
“When you have good governance, you have addressed all the issues. Today, we are talking about maritime insecurity. The international community is concerned, they want to make sure that they arrive Nigeria safely and leave Nigeria safely. There is the issue of corruption, among others. Good governance will bring about policy interventions so that it can help many things to flourish”, Jamoh said.

The next is investment in infrastructure, for without it, Nigeria cannot address maritime insecurity, noting that the assets for policing the country’s waters and our exclusive economic zones were nothing to write home about.
“So many (other) factors come to play here, including our waterways, maintenance culture, among others. Today, one of the things that the country does is to employ the services of private security providers for our waters. Most of the ships used to provide security belong to the private sector. We must have fiscal policies for the Nigerian Navy to have what they needed in terms of modern equipment, spare parts, and maintenance,” said the NIMASA DG.

Calming the troubled waters
However, in line with its mandate, NIMASA has been adopting creative approaches to addressing the challenges. For instance, whereas Nigeria has been unable to disburse the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund since 2003, Dr. Jamoh assured that NIMASA was working round the clock to see if it could break the jinx before the end of 2020.
Today, the country can boast of modular floating docks.

“The modular floating boat can help you to repair your security boat and make sue you respond to whatever crisis you have in terms of attack. The Federal Government made an intervention and as I speak, we have modular floating docks at the Naval dockyard. Only Nigeria and South Africa own that type of modular floating dock. This modular floating dock was purchased with over N50 billion and has the capacity to dock not less than eight ships in a month. We are working very hard to put it to use now”, Jamoh stated.

But no doubt, the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project, DBP, remains NIMASA’s most ambitious and innovative initiative to comprehensively address insecurity and criminality in Nigeria’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. DBP comprises two Special Mission Vessel (SMV) with the capacity to stay at sea for over three days, 17 fast intervention vessels, and the Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS). The unmanned aircrafts are linked to SMVs, such that once the SMVs receive information from the UAS, they will dispatch fast intervention vessels to deal with the threats immediately. The Project equally boasts of three helicopters in addition to two Special Mission Aircrafts equipped with gadgets to take and transmit information to different arms of the Project. There are also 17 armoured vehicles for the hinterlands, while the Command, Control, Computer Communication, and Information Centre (C4i) was officially launched at NIMASA’s base in Lagos a few months back.

Proactive approaches and teamwork
Although the cost of the entire DBP, which is estimated at $195 million, is shouldered by NIMASA alone, Jamoh said the agency was committed to sharing of the facilities with other relevant agencies.
“The issue of maritime security requires a combination of efforts. Those who commit illegal acts at sea are highly adaptable, increasingly sophisticated in their methods and often well-informed. So, local, regional and global efforts must be flexible and proactive.

“If the Nigeria Air Force needs an aircraft to fight the pirates, I hand it over to them for the operation. If the Navy needs a vessel, I hand it to Navy because we cannot go it all alone. They go there and achieve the needed result. NIMASA shares in the credit, but importantly, Nigerian will be the best for it”, the NIMASA DG reasoned.

Jamoh said NIMASA had equally created the Maritime Intelligence Unit to streamline intelligence and optimise intelligence gathering and sharing among the agencies to boost preventive and proactive approaches, including sensitisation.
In concluding, emphasised the urgency of unlocking Nigeria’s maritime potentials, especially given the fast-plummeting oil revenues and prospects.

“Whatever we have to do, now is the time. From now to 2030 when Europe plans to abandon oil is only 10 years. During the campaign, Joe Biden wants US to be independent of oil. If US and Europe are saying no to oil, where are we going to be in the next few years?” Jamoh said.

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Whatever we have to do, now is the time. From now to 2030 when Europe plans to abandon oil is only 10 years. During the campaign, Joe Biden wants US to be independent of oil. If US and Europe are saying no to oil, where are we going to be in the next few years?