July 23, 2024

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Now that Nigeria has ministry for Maritime Affairs

Now that Nigeria has ministry for Maritime Affairs

By Kumuyi Oluwafemi

The establishment of a ministry of maritime affairs has long been the desire of Nigerian maritime stakeholders, a sentiment which has been echoed at various fora. This is due to the numerous potential that lie untapped in the ocean resources, while also assisting the federal government to achieve its diversification drive and reduce over reliance on the oil sector.

Many stakeholders have predicted that the establishment of a specialised ministry for the maritime sector will help the government harness the resources in the ocean, while also boosting the revenue of the government and creating more jobs for Nigerians.

Globally, the maritime sector accounts for over 80 per cent of trade, thereby making it crucial to the survival of the global economy. This sector portends wealth for nations, while also creating employment opportunities for nations to thrive economically.

Suffice to state that the Nigerian maritime sector remains an untapped goldmine with numerous resources including a coastline of about 853 kilometres in addition to about 3,000 kilometres of navigable inland waterways. Nigeria is home to an abundance of natural resources ranging from natural gas, iron ore, zinc, limestone, mines, lead, coal, tin, columbite, asides petroleum resources. These resources give rise to fisheries, tourism, shipping, aquaculture, mining among other revenue generating activities.

The realities of the need to diversify the economy as a result of over-dependence on oil has become imperative, thereby resorting to the blue economy regime pointing to the sustainable use of ocean resources.

Importantly, the seas and the oceans are crucial to the existence of humanity with the entire earths surface mostly covered by water. Several commercial activities, like underwater mining, fishing, oil drilling and explorations and aquaculture, among others, take place on the seas and there is the need to consciously preserve it for the future generations in order to be able to harness the resources embedded in the seas, hence the current global discussion on sustainability.

Gunter Paulin in his journal entitled; The Blue Economy, said: Let us not demand more of the earth. Let us do more with what the earth already provides. This quote heralds the awareness of The blue economy concept, which aims to promote and encourage sustainable uses of ocean resources.

Furthermore, the need to integrate ocean economies alongside developmental strides and across national boundaries adequately describes the concept of the Blue Economy (BE), which formed the crux of the discussion at the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) held in 2012. The conference focused on pertinent issues aimed at eradicating poverty by developing a framework that will encourage sustainable development and use of ocean resources as an alternative model for economic stimulation.

This noble concept tallies with the ideals of sustainability, as it is aimed at defining the basic needs of humanity, bearing in mind future demands and the need to preserve ocean-based resources. Therefore, it will be apt to state that sustainability is the heart of the concept of blue economy.

Discussions on the blue economy have continued to evolve, while also gaining global recognition, as it is futuristic, which will transcend from one generation to another. More so, it has given room to the consciousness and the need to lay a foundation for the long-term usage of the oceans for economic growth and development globally, while also putting in place viable policies that will help protect the oceans.

Meanwhile, Climate Change being a global threat has huge effects on the sustainability of oceans resources; as experts say the effects can lead to rising temperature, rising sea levels, including severe weather conditions like flooding, drought among others. All these can have negative effects on the oceans and the environment, thereby affecting human health and oceans health.

To underscore the importance of this concept, the Conference of the Parties (COP 25) under the auspices of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC) was codenamed the Blue COP in Paris, just as mitigating the effects of Climate Change formed the crux of the discussion with about 192 countries in attendance. Blue COP refers to the link between the health of the climate and that of the oceans.

To forestall these occurrences, countries are to come up with a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) strategy aimed at reducing the effects of climate change through emission control, and to be reviewed every five years with more ambitious targets in succeeding years.

Therefore, harnessing the blue economy ideals requires the involvement of governments at all levels, national, regional, continental and international, towards achieving the quest to build stronger economies, bearing in mind the effects of climate change to the realisation of the blue economy.

This will also foster economic growth and prosperity, while also ensuring the preservation of the environment to enhance and achieve the goal for a sustainable ocean with government paying close attention to the aforementioned areas.

Fundamentally, Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is very crucial to the actualisation of the blue economy ideals, which is an area government must place priority. Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) is the tool to manage the use of the seas and oceans in a coordinated manner, while also ensuring that human activities take place in an efficient, safe and sustainable way.

Spatial planning consists of four major phases, problem analysis; assessment of alternatives; decision and implantation, which coincides with the dictates of the policy circle, aimed at helping decision-makers have tailored direction towards the implementation of a policy, which is the last stage of decision-making.

This concept of Maritime Spatial Planning helps better communication between the various users of the seas and oceans, thereby leading to better collaboration among the users, as it will encourage evidence-based information gathering to engender sustainable usage of the resources embedded in the oceans.

Furthermore, Maritime Spatial Planning will help balance ecological, social, economic, and governance objectives, with the main objective being increased sustainability through proper utilisation of the oceans resources.

An MSP-based initiative would synchronise with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG) 14 and 17 on Life below Water and partnership as it aims at ensuring conservation of the oceans and its resources through partnership and cooperation among member states.

Therefore, it will be apt to say; the blue economy concept aims to create a balance in the actualisation of sustainable economic benefits, in addition to the long-term ocean health in consonance with the sustainable development goals, geared towards intra and inter-generational equity.

The awareness of this noble global concept underpins the need to educate the public and stakeholders across board, intimating them of the benefits of the oceans, while bearing in mind that it will no longer be business as usual, where dumping of waste and over-exploitation of resources can take place on the oceans.

Now that the federal government has listened to the yearnings of stakeholders to establish a standalone ministry for maritime affairs, all hands must be on the deck to actualise this mandate.

The author of this piece is of the opinion that establishing this new ministry shows governments determination to diversify the economy, while also depending less on the oil sector. The Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy is like naming a new Ministry of Petroleum Resources, as stakeholders believe that shipping is next to oil, and can even surpass it, if the right policies are in place.

Coincidentally, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has been at the forefront of promoting the ideals of blue economy. There is no green without blue. When you do not have water, you cannot have food. I want to see Nigeria Blue through the Blue Economy. These are the words of Dr. Jamoh, which symbolises the importance of the oceans resources to the green economy.

Under Jamohs leadership, efforts to mainstay the blue economy for sustainable development has seen the Agency meet with the organised private sector under the auspices of Academy for Maximum Achievement to galvanise their support towards actualizing the robust ideas behind the initiative.

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 and advocacy.

In 2022, 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. This underscores the importance attached to this initiative.

At the summit, the IMO Secretary General in his address spoke on the need for the subject of the Blue Economy to be in the spotlight, noting that the world needs a sustainable and efficient shipping industry to enhance global trade, with safety and sustainability at its focus. At the summit, stakeholders from the private sector gave the assurance on the need to support NIMASAs quest in maximizing the Blue Economy, especially as the initiative of The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) provides such opportunities.

On his part, a renowned environmental consultant, Professor Oladele Osinbajo at a forum emphasized the need to preserve the oceans as it holds numerous opportunities in developing the nation. He stated further that there is the need for inter-generational equity of our resources, which means the survival of the ecosystem is dependent on this present generation, as it will affect the future generation. He said, The environment is not a gift from our parents, but a loan from our children. We must therefore do all we can to preserve it.

On assumption of office, the Honourable Minister of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola, called for collaboration and teamwork among all stakeholders and agencies in order to harness the resources in Nigerias vast coastal resources. He also assured Nigerians that part of his vision is to ensure that inland rivers, lakes, and waterways are properly utilised, in terms of both cargo shipment and passenger transportation.

Our oceans cover more than two-thirds of our planets surface, holding the key to sustainable economic growth, environmental preservation, and technology innovation. As we look ahead, my vision is rooted in the responsible management and utilisation of our marine resources to benefit not only our economy, but also the health of our planet, the minister said.

Upon this premise, it will be apt to say it is a new dawn for Nigeria with the establishment of the new ministry, as the contribution of the maritime sector to the economy will be visible.

Asides collaboration, government must deliberately invest in research and development to harness this noble sector, while also relying on professionals to assist in making tailored policies that will help in the realisation of the blue economy.

While congratulating the new minister on his appointment, we all look forward to a smooth sail in the affairs of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.

Oluwafemi is a staff of the Public Relations Unit of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in Lagos.


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