Special Report:  Oyetola Unveils Four-Point Agenda; Jamoh Wins Minister’s Heart

By Stephen Ubanna

For years, Gboyega Oyetola, former governor of Osun state and now minister of Marine and Blue Economy, may  have been hearing and reading on the newspapers of the activities in the nation’s maritime industry and the key players piloting the affairs of the industry but have never had the opportunity of interacting with them on a one-on basis to know  what  is happening in the sector  and what it can contribute to the economic development if the right policies to fully regulate the industry and control maritime  crimes are initiated.

His recent  interactions with the key players of the industry, particular,  Magdalene Ajani, the Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Transportation/ Marine and Blue Economy, Mohammed Bello-Koko, Managing Director , Nigerian Ports Authority, Bashir Jamoh, OFR, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA,  George Moghalu, Managing Director, Nigerian Inland Waterways, NIWA, Emmanuel Jime, Executive Secretary , Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC, and others too numerous to mention  in his capacity as the minister of the newly ccreated ministry olaced  with the  recent working visit to the ports and  the NIMASA, Resource Centre at Kirikiri, Apapa, Lagos, the nation’s commercial nerve centre,  may have sharpen his thoughts  to announce his top agenda for the nation’s maritime industry to make it more competitive to the nation’s oil sector, which has remained  the main  source of revenue generation to  the government over the years.

 Industry experts believe that he may have taken a close study of Jamoh, the NIMASA Director General, three-point agenda, on assumption of duties on March 10, 2020, which includes Maritime Security, Maritime Safe and Shipping Development to form his own four- point agenda, described as a welcome development in maritime circles.

Armed with what he has read over the years and heard based on brief interactions with the maritime actors since assumption office last August and what he has seen on ground during the recent working visitto the Lagos ports and the NIMASA Resource Centre which was revealing may have embolden   him to speak as  an expert on the nation’s maritime industry.

  The Osun state born minister of Marine and Blue Economy  was said to have used the opportunity of the visit to the NIMASA Resorce centre to  inspected  the agency much talked  about ‘’ Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Inteligence, C4i centre, NIMASA e-library,  the Global Maritime Distress  and Saety System,  GMDSS,  radio room,  Marine Environment Management Laboratory, , the newly acquired NIMASA  headquarters , Search and Rescue  Base clinic  and the agency Skill Acquisition  centre, located in Apapa as well.

Oyetola, Ajani, And Jamoh, DG, NIMASA, During The Ministerial Visit To The Agency Resource Centre, Kirikiri, Lagos

   This may have guided him to  declare what he intends to do as the  minister of the newly  created ministry  mandated to oversee the affairs of the nation’s maritime industry  in  ‘’tackling illegal, unreported  and unregulated , IUU, fishing, in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea,  harnessing maritime tourism, maritime security and maritime safety.

The minister who could not hide his feelings was said to have told the top management of NIMASA, who had met with him at a close-door meeting that the time has come for the nation ‘’to harness its vast potentials in the maritime sector’’ which had been neglected over the years due to the upsurge in the oil exploration and exports to the international oil to earn foreign exchange.

He was said to have told those that cares to listen that ‘’the working visit to the Lagos ports on Monday, September 4, 2023 and the NIMASA Resource Centre, on Tuesday, September 5, 2023, which was said to have concided with President Bola Ahmed visit , was very revealing to New Delhi, Capital of the Asian country of India on the invitation of Narenda Modi, the country’s Prime Minister to attend the G20 meeting.

Putting the garb of a politician, Oyetola, who was  said to be blunt , in his remarks during the working visist to the Lagos ports  was said to have shocked Bello Koko,  the  Chief Executive Officer , CEO, of NPA, and the other   maritime agencies CEOs, When told them on arrival in Lagos on Monday ,September 4,  2023 that they have come ‘’to see  some those things  which they had claimed they have done and which they were said to have made them to believe and swallow  in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory , FCT,    hook , line stinker.

The minister had said that they are on the working visit to the Lagos seaports and the NIMASA Resource centre, with a view ‘’to taking practical steps towards the addressing the maritime challenges   which had bedevilled the industry over the years’’.

He had disclosed that he was particularly interested in the agency N50 billion Modular Floating Dock which had arrived the country since 2018 but yet to commence operations of dry dock of vessels calling at Nigerian ports or neighbouring countries seaports.

. The Osun state born minister of Marine and Blue Economy may have his reason for speaking out his mind. This is because of his believe that ‘’ it has the potentials to generate employment and stemmed capital flight from the industry’’.

 He is right. Take for instance, it costs between N45 million or the North Amerian country of the United States, US, 300,000 dollars and N75 million or $500,000 annually to go to Tema , in the West African country of Ghana , or  Duala, in the neighbouring  Central African of Cameroun  or Robbins Bay for dry dock of  between  200 t0 300 vessels annually , which ought to have been serviced in Nigeria but  lack of the dry dock facilities may have deprived the country  of such opportunities .

Informed sources told the Value News that each dry dock cost the ship owner between $300 and $500 million on each trip. It is a requirement of the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, that vessels should go  for dry dock every three years , meaning that if the 200-300 vessels dry dock in Ghana, Cameroun and other maritime nations around the world  have been dry dock in Nigeria  on a yearly basis , it will  go a long way to boost the nation’s economy.

 An elated Oyetola had said,  that ‘’the government  must find a way of ensuring stakeholders buy -in, in whatever we do so that we would be seen to be working together for the growth and development of Nigeria’’.

Gboyega Oyetola: Minister Of Marine & Blue Economy

This may have informed why the minister has made clear that it is no longer negotiable to float the national carrier, insisting that ‘’it was time for Nigeria to float a national carrier as obtained in other maritime nations through a public -private sector arrangement’’.

He noted that with the support of the industry stakeholders, the plan to float the national carrier   would become a reality    in the interest of the nation’s maritime industry and the country in general.  Oyetola, the former Osun state, governor, who may have seen himself as the newest maritime operator, had asserted   that in the management of the country’s marine and blue economy one need ‘’to be proactive, smart, strategic in thinking’’.

It was not surprising why he has called ‘’for the rediscovery, harnessing and packaging of the nation’s maritime resources, including the seafoods, in line with all the known associated international standards and specifications’’.

The minister was said to have thrown his weight behind Jamoh, the NIMASA, CEO, riot squad, to effectively manage and control the activities of the nation’s multi-billion dollar maritime industry was said to have’’ bemoaned foreign dominance of the nation’s fishing industry and assured that under close watch this time around ‘’it will no longer be business as usual’’.

He was said to have commended Jamoh and his management team, for doing all that is within their powers in ensuring that that’’the agency fulfils its Constitutional mandates’’.  He may have gladdened the heart of Jamoh, the NIMASA, helmsman, when he declared that he has ‘’absolute confidence in the capabilities  and dedication  of the agency’s  manament team’’.  He was said to have further stated that he  looked forward  ‘’to witnessing  the continued success of NIMASA, in shaping the future  of the nation’s maritime industry’’.

The former Osun sate governor, who is highly impressed with the high level of intelligence of the nation’s maritime industry players and what he had seen on ground at the NIMASA, Resource centre had declared that   ‘’together,  a m thriving marine and blue economy  that would be beneficial to everyone  in the country would be  realised’’.   

The National Bureau of Statistics, NBS, had reported that the nation’s fisheries sector contributed   1.09% of the country’s total Gross Domestic Product, GDP, in 2020 and the third quarter of 2021. The NBS, was said to have confirmed the reports making the rounds that Nigerian has been regarded as a net importer of fishery products when the country is surrounded by water evrywhere. Talking tough, the minister had declared: we are determined to change the narrative by putting in place measures to make Nigeria a major player in the fishery sector.

Enough on the ministerial plan on the nation’s fishery sector. We turn to his plans to tackle the nation’s maritime security problems  and ensure safety of ocean-going vessels in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. Although, Jamoh and his management team , over the last years  were said to have  done exceeding well in tightening up security in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea with the deployment of the over  $195 million maritime assets comprising of 16 armoured vehicles, for coastal patrol, 17 Fast Interception Boats, three Special Mission Helicopters, two Special Mission aircrafts, , for Surveillance of Nigerian Exclusive Nigerian Economic Zone, EEZ,  two special mission, vessels and four aerial vehicles, Oyetola  had repeated said  that  ‘’maritime  security and maritime safety’’  would be top priority in his administration .

He was emphatic that ‘’there can never be any meaningful achievement in the nation’s maritime industry, if Piracy, sea robbery and other criminal activities could not be contained in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’, noting that with the rich endowments of the country’ maritime and blue economy resources, would be fully explored.

  He was said to have also said that the country has no justification not ‘’to develop marine tourism, particular, which is a major revenue -spinner in most maritime nations, like the United Kingdom, UK, including Netherland, France  other European nations insisting that diversification of the economy from the oil sector was sacrosanct’’.

Osagie Edward, an Assistant Director and NIMASA, spokesperson, had said that harnessing the nation’s maritime tourism potentials could be achieved with ease because the country makes up about 47,000 Kilometres of the coast line in the African Continent. The NIMASA, spokesperson had said that Nigeria has one of  ‘’the largest  wetlands  in the global economy , with  huge coastal  and marine  ecosystems  covering  a total of  70,00 square Kilometres.

Edward, the NIMASA, spokesperson, who had said that the country has all that it takes ‘’to attract tourists to waters’’, had alluded to the ministerial promise that the government will develop the necessary infrastructural facilities in Lagos, PortHarcourt and other major cities and towns in the country that are lake or coastal facing  for this maritime tourism purpose.

 Recall that  Jamoh, the Kaduna state born technocrat, had said that the t appointment  of Oyetola, the erstwhile Osun state governor  as the pioneer minister of the ministry of Marines and Blue Economy was ‘’unique and timely’’ and coming at a time  of the industry and  stakeholders  clamour  for ..independence’’ ‘’.  Describing the Nigerian President as a ‘’listening Leader’’, he has thanked him for his ‘’magnanimity  to create  the new ministry’’, promising that the purpose  for the creation of the new ministry  to oversee the  affairs of the nation’s maritime sector and turn it to be  a major  revenue -spinner for the country would  be achieved with the implementation of the right policies.    

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