Monday, 30 September 2013

If Jonathan had turned up

Could President Goodluck Jonathan, in spite of the much-touted Transformation Agenda of his administration, after all be paying mere lip service towards the growth and development of the Nigerian maritime industry?
Inexplicably, Jonathan for the third year running failed to attend Africa’s biggest maritime event, the annual Nigeria Maritime Expo (NIMAREX), aimed at showcasing the country’s maritime potentials. Jonathan had serially failed to honour invitation by the organisers to declare the expo open and explain his administration’s plan for the development of the shipping sector.
Stakeholders, who, two years ago, hailed Jonathan over the appointment of Nigeria’s first-ever Senior Special Assistant to the President on Maritime Services, Mr. Leke Olugbenga Oyewole, are now dissatisfied over the manner the President shunned the event’s debut, the second and third editions in a row.
President Jonathan did not attend NIMAREX 2011 despite being in Lagos on March 1, 2011, when the event kicked-off. Indeed, he reportedly lodged at Eko Hotel where the expo was held.

The President also shunned NIMAREX 2012, opting to attend the commissioning of facilities at Nigerdock Nigeria Plc three days after the opening of the expo, and a day after it ended. This was despite the presence of two former Heads of State – General Yakubu Gowon and Chief Ernest Shonekan – and the representative of the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) at the event.
The same trend repeated itself this year. The President did not find it worth his time and energy to attend NIMAREX 2013 despite the presence of former President Olusegun Obasanjo at the event. Two days after the closing of NIMAREX 2013, however, he attended a private event at Civic Centre in Lagos and a exactly a week after the opening ceremony of NIMAREX 2013, he attended the opening of Nigeria Summit 2013 organised by The Economist at Eko Hotel – the same venue of the Nigeria Maritime Expo.
So it is clear to me that with President Jonathan’s posture, the maritime industry should not expect to see any radical improvement under the current government. Unlike Nollywood which he finds time to honour, I think the maritime industry is not on Mr. President’s priority list.
If Mr. President had turned up, he would have listened to the plight of Nigerian ship owners. He would have learnt about their challenges and how solving their problems would translate into helping the Nigerian economy grow.

Mr. President would have got very good ideas of how to make the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 work from former President Obasanjo and other speakers at NIMAREX 2013. He would have learnt that making NIMAREX work would not only be in tandem with his transformation agenda but will boost the Nigerian economy.
I’m sure after leaving NIMAREX, he would have directed his appointees at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to immediately get down to work and get their hands dirty.
Among several other measures, faithful implementation of the Cabotage law will ensure that vessels owned by Nigerians are gainfully employed and these in turn will create several jobs for a large number of our unemployed youths.
And what is there in implementing the Cabotage law anyway? It is not rocket science. No Nigerian vessel should be allowed to sit idle while foreign vessels have a field day on our waters. It is that simple.
Movement of petroleum products and other goods within our territorial waters; that is from Lagos to Warri, to Calabar, to Onne, to Port Harcourt etc must be done by ships owned and crewed by Nigerians. Let us start from there and see what will happen within a year. There will be an explosion of wealth! Forget about whether the vessel is 50 years old or not. So long as it can move from one place to the other without endangering persons and cargo, it is good enough for now. When these ship owners make enough money, within months you’ll begin to see new vessels all over and before you know it, they will even begin to buy ocean-going vessels. Gradually, after two years, Nigerian shipping firms will be able to fully lift the nation’s crude. But then, President Jonathan didn’t turn up; so this will remain a fanciful hope for now. 

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