Kerry Baskins said, “The differentiator in business is when an organisation steps out and creates value from something never tried before”. This can be alluded to the appointment of Dr. Bashir Jamoh as Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) by President Muhammadu Buhari on March 10, 2020, and the strides the agency has recorded under his stewardship.
Many industry players greeted his appointment with high hopes that the industry will thrive and regain its place in the comity of maritime nations, by attracting foreign investors to collaborate and grow the Nigerian maritime sector to align with global best practices.
Interestingly, Dr. Jamoh hit the ground running with his team made up of top management staff of the agency, while setting a three-point agenda to guide the operations of the agency in line with its mandate, which cuts across; Security, Safety and Shipping Development.
The three-point agenda commonly referred to as the ‘3s’ have shaped the direction of the agency in the past three years, with the overall aim of attaining the ideals of the blue economy initiative, a global phenomenon aimed at creating wealth through the preservation of ocean resources, while ensuring sustainability. This is in line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs).
In 2022, the NIMASA DG who was part a delegation to South Korea with the President Muhammadu Buhari ceased the opportunity to engage the audience on the viability of the blue economy in Nigeria. The discussion, among other issues, focused on the plans for reactivation of the dockyard, the establishment of foundry, ship repairs and other maritime infrastructural development, which falls under the shipping development initiative of the three-point agenda.
Consolidating on the visit to South Korea, the Deputy Minister for Overseas Koreans and Consular Affairs, Republic of Korea, Choi Yeong, led a team to the agency where he disclosed that Nigeria is the gateway to unlocking the potential of the African continent’s blue economy.
Talking about the African Blue Economy, a peep at the Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) 2050 document by the Africa Union (AU), describes it as the “new frontier for African Renaissance”. The document further states that the cliché is the future of Africa and a stimulus for other economic activities.
During his visit, the Korean Deputy Minister, Choi Yeong also commended the sustained and improved situation in the Gulf of Guinea with a strong presence of Nigeria, with a pledge that the Korean government looks forward to continuous partnership with the agency, particularly with reference to information sharing.
“Nigeria is the one of the biggest countries on the African continent in terms of economic size, population and market potentials. Therefore, Nigeria could be a very important partner to us the People of Korea; Nigeria could be our gateway to the whole of African continent. We are glad to inform you that Korea has scheduled a summit involving the entire African continent in 2024 and we hope it will strengthen relationship with Nigeria and Africa,” he said.
Actualising the blue economy requires collaboration as highlighted by the NIMASA DG during a paper presentation at the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, NIIA, where he pointed out that the NIIA has a critical role to play for Nigeria to harness the blue economy initiative.
In his paper titled “Opportunities and Challenges in Harnessing the Blue Economy” at a seminar organised by the NIIA with the theme: “Safety, Security and Development in Nigeria’s Maritime Domain: Problems, Strategies and Prospects.” Jamoh noted that collaboration amongst all organs of government in Nigeria and the organized private sector would accelerate harnessing the blue economy in Nigeria citing the successes of the Deep Blue Project, hinged on collaboration.
Efforts of the current administration to mainstay the blue economy for sustainable development has seen the leadership of the agency under Jamoh meeting with the organised private sector under the auspices of Academy for Maximum Achievement to galvanize their support towards actualising the robust ideas behind the initiative.
Delivering a paper as a guest speaker in a lunch-hour lecture series organised by the academy in Lagos, the NIMASA helmsman called for deeper private sector participation in the initiative to harness the benefits from the maritime industry.
At the meeting, he disclosed that the Deep Blue Project initiative of the federal government has enhanced maritime security, as Nigeria has exited the list of piracy prone countries.
Still on the blue economy, he highlighted key areas such as shipbuilding, ship repairs and recycling as areas that will benefit the economy in the establishment of businesses within the value chain, create employment and boost foreign exchange earnings for government and private concerns. In addition, the vast resources in about 28 coastal states in the country with navigable inland waters will make wealth creation possible, but with much sensitisation, which he says the governors of these states are aware, as the onus lies on the governor’s to educate their indigenes.
To buttress the importance attached to the blue economy ideals, the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim visited Nigeria to attend a summit organised by Nigeria International Maritime Summit (NIMS) and supported by NIMASA with the theme focused on “Igniting the Blue Economy”.
At the summit, the IMO Secretary General in his keynote address spoke on the need for the subject of Blue Economy to be on the spotlight, noting that the world needs a sustainable and efficient shipping industry to enhance global trade, with safety and sustainability in focus. Stakeholders described his participation as important, as it reveals the confidence the IMO has in the country’s maritime administration (MARAD), in this case, NIMASA. In addition, the private sector gave the assurance on the need to support NIMASA’s quest in maximizing the Blue Economy, especially as the initiative of The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides such opportunities.
It is important to stress that the blue economy initiative hinges on sustainability of ocean resources, which requires the efforts of all and sundry to attain it. These resources include; fisheries, tourism, transportation, shipping, among others.
Further to the collaborative importance of the blue economy, and then need to cascade it down to the educational sector of the Nigerian economy, Jamoh in commemoration of the international day of education delivered a paper on the “Overview of the Blue Economy and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AFCFTA). This is an avenue to keep the teaching profession abreast of the components and benefits of the initiative, which will be cascaded down to the students, thereby raising their awareness on the huge potentials associated with the mantra.
Suffice to state that ocean’s economy is vital to economic growth and development as it can also help the federal government and its quest for diversification, which is the essence the current management of NIMASA, is vigorously carrying out a vigorous sensitisation and campaign for a better understanding of the initiative.
Speaking during the event, he disclosed that the background on NIMASA’s primary mandate provides the nexus for its role in the blue economy and associated principles.
He stated further that internalising this initiative requires certain measures to be put in place such as; Skills and career development; ocean knowledge, research and innovation; Investment and ocean literacy and planning. The agency is taking these steps; to ensure the blue economy ideals synchronises in other various sectors of the Nigerian Economy.
Interestingly, the discuss on AfCFTA also harmonises with the blue economy mantra as it involves trade, which is part of the focus of the concept of the blue economy.
Recognising the importance of the AfCFTA initiative, Jamoh’s led administration opines that both initiative can help redefine the fortunes of Nigeria in terms of wealth and job creation.
The AfCFTA, described as the world’s largest free trade area brings together the 55 countries of the African Union (AU) and eight (8) Regional Economic Communities (RECs), with the overall mandate of achieving a single continental market with a population of about 1.3 billion people and a combined GDP of approximately US$ 3.4 trillion.
The core mandate of AfCFTA is to eliminate trade barriers and boost intra-Africa trade. In particular, it is to advance trade production across all service sectors of the African Economy by enabling investment and job creation, implying that it has the potential to foster industrialisation, job creation and investment; thereby enhancing the competitiveness of Africa in the medium, short and long term.
Holistically, AfCFTA and the blue economy share the similarity of focus on spurring development in a wholesome manner, which allows the most disadvantaged parts of the world to exert a measure of control over their natural resources. This makes the AfCFTA and blue economy indispensable for human endeavours and development.
Jamoh said thus “The teaching profession is critical to actualising the blue economy and there must be a paradigm shift away from unrestrained consumption toward sustainable utilisation of resources. If we are able to articulate this mentality in our youth from the earliest ages, there is renewed hope for a world free of hunger, want and poverty as contained in the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs)”.
Invariably, the blue economy concept focuses on building strong and viable economies with the involvement of governments at all levels, both at the national and international levels towards the realization of economic growth and prosperity, by ensuring the preservation of the environment to enhance and achieve the goal for a sustainable ocean, which NIMASA is championing.
On the part of the Federal Government of Nigeria, a committees headed by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo was inaugurated, which includes key stakeholders including the Federal Ministry of Transportation (FMOT), Federal Ministry of Agriculture, NIMASA, among other relevant agencies, including state governments of coastal states in Nigeria.
The task of this committee is draft a National Action Plan that will guide the implementation of the blue economy, while also seeking funding mechanisms to realise the ideal of the Nigeria blue economy. Overall, the bigger picture is to create a robust economy that will be less dependent on oil, while also attracting foreign direct investments and creating jobs, thereby resulting to a wealthy and prosperous economy.
With this, it is apt to say that NIMASA’s efforts to drive a diversified economy is gaining traction, as there is more awareness on the mantra of the blue economy; even beyond that, linking it with AfCFTA can be described as the right step in the right direction.
Oluwafemi writes from Lagos.