Minister of State for Transportation, Gbemisola Saraki has called for improved budgetary allocation for ocean research in the country to address the growing concern for the future of the ocean, particularly as it relates to the health of its biodiversity.
Saraki, who made the call at the 2022 World Hydrography Day organized by the Nigerian Navy Hydrographic Office in Lagos on Tuesday disclosed that only 2 percent of the national research budget is allocated to ocean research.
She said despite the looming dangers threatening the world’s oceans, with warnings that there could be more plastics in the ocean than fish by 2050, there isn’t enough effort at understanding the ocean environment to elicit appropriate actions to improve its health.
The minister said without adequate research funding, the data and the understanding necessary to manage ocean science and impact would continue to suffer neglect.
According to her, countries like Nigeria with enormous strategic ocean assets need the resource allocation and expertise of the Navy as a national strategy just as she advocated for more women participation in the hydrography industry.
“The decision by the United Nations General Assembly to assent to the adoption of 21st June of every year as the World Hydrography Day, indicates the recognition of the role hydrography plays in all activities within the ocean. It is an established fact that the oceans have been of immense importance both as a medium for global trade and a source of livelihood to humankind, as well as revenue generation for Governments. It also moderates the climate and offers an indispensable medium for global transportation of goods and services.
“Studies have shown that tropical coral reefs may disappear by the turn of the century, and by 2050 there could be more plastics in the ocean than fish. Despite these looming dangers threatening the world’s oceans, there isn’t enough effort at understanding the ocean environment to elicit appropriate actions to improve its health.
“Unfortunately, only about 2 percent of the national research budget is allocated to ocean research.
“These alarming statistics triggered the United Nations in 2017, to declare the period from 2021 to 2030, as a decade of ocean science for sustainable development. The above declaration by the UN aims to leverage ocean sciences at all levels, to drive actions and processes for reversing the decline in ocean health, while continuing to rely on the ocean for our ever-increasing needs.
“Hydrography is the key driver of ocean science studies and depicts the physical features of the ocean, noting that it is the starting point for any meaningful understanding of the world’s oceans. It is this knowledge that enables us to better manage our ocean’s assets and deliver economic and environmental solutions to the maritime public and stakeholders across Nigeria.
“Like other Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields, Hydrography has traditionally seen low rates of female participation. It is my hope that in your pursuit of excellence, you will begin to promote and include women in hydrography daily as well. And of course, this will be a good project for the Hydrographer of the Navy, Rear Admiral Emeka Okafor, to champion,” she said.
The Minister also decried the presence of wreckages posing dangers to navigation of vessels warning that the government would no longer tolerate abandoned vessels that have turned wrecks on Lagos waters.
“You and I know that every single vessel that comes into our waters, we know the owners. And the fact that they continue to abandon those vessels in our waters means they feel they can do that with impunity and with no consequences.
“But that has to stop. As you are aware, the Navy has identified about 40 wrecks. So, it is important we have to do something about the issue. We are going to inspect some of these wrecks”, she stated.
In his keynote address, Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo noted that barely two years after the Nigerian Navy unveiled its first indigenous navigational chart, nine more navigational paper charts and five cells of Electronic Navigational Charts have been produced.
He disclosed that the Navy had also achieved another milestone in developing hydrographic capacity, as its Hydrographic Office has commenced production of nautical publications.
The CNS described the theme of the 2022 World Hydrographic Day as apt, due to the indispensability of hydrographic data in ocean scientific research.
He assured that the campaign for the systematic study of Nigeria’s waters would be sustained until the entire offshore waters are completely surveyed.
“The Nigerian Navy recently commenced the first indigenous systematic survey of Nigeria’s coastal and offshore waters. This marked the beginning of systematic study of Nigeria’s waters and the campaign would be sustained until our entire offshore waters are completely surveyed.
“Pertinently, knowledge of the physical properties of the environment would be used, not only for nautical charts production, but also to aid the Federal Government towards policy formulation that would reverse the cycle of decline in Nigeria’s ocean health. Furthermore, these hydrographic data would assist relevant agencies to delineate critical marine protected and potential deep sea mining areas. These would further position Nigeria on the right part towards improved national economic growth, development and security,” he said.
In his welcome address, Hydrographer of the Navy, Rear Admiral Emeka Okafor, explained that, hydrography, as a branch of applied sciences, “stands out as a major scientific tool, that offers indispensable knowledge, which mariners and policy makers, could leverage to ensure conservation and sustainable use of the oceans”.
He said the country has witnessed development in hydrographic strength and capacity under President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that it has joined the list of chart producing nations after several decades.
“My optimism is predicated on the fact that Nigeria has never witnessed the type of development in Hydrographic strength it currently has.
“Nigeria today is among the chart producing nations in the world capable of producing not just nautical charts but also specialised hydrographic products like environmental sensitivity index charts and several nautical products which would guide policy makers and Maritime security agencies and mariners alike while engaging in their activities within the Maritime sector,” he said.
Highlight of the event was the launch of the Nigerian navy nautical publications and the NNS Lana maiden magazine ‘The Gondola’, which chronicled activities from construction till date.