Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer, GOG Marine Limited, Bem Ibrahim Garba, has blamed the country’s inability to maximize its maritime potentials to the fullest, on negligence on the part of the government.
Decrying the economic benefits in the maritime sector, he said that the huge natural and human resources in the sector were not reflecting in the country’s development, especially in the areas of job and wealth creations.
Speaking in Lagos, Garba compared Nigeria with Greece which he said shared similar opportunities. He expressed regrets that Nigeria still lagged behind, and was depending on many other seafaring nations including smaller European nations to meet her domestic and international maritime and logistics requirements.
He said: “If you are like me, and you think about situations like this deeply, you will find that the difference is not about a lack of resources, a lack of manpower or one country being better endowed than the other. The difference actually lies in what each country knows and how she chooses to make use of that knowledge.
“As a country, the Nigerian government officials responsible for the shipping industry’s development, theoretically, know and understand the significance of a well developed indigenous shipping industry. They know about the millions of good-paying jobs that this industry can create for local Nigerians; they know about the valuable taxes that the country could earn if this industry was fully optimized.
“They know about the pride that Nigeria would derive from having our national flag, proudly hoisted amongst the comity of well-represented seafaring nations. The challenge lies in how well we choose to utilize this well-articulated knowledge”.
Nigeria, according to him, was not taking the issue of maritime business seriously and has been unable to exploit it’s natural advantages, unlike Greece.
He stated further: “These two nations have the natural advantage of proximity to the sea, giving their indigenous people (coastal people) the natural advantage of seeking employment, trade and wealth creation from trades associated with the sea; yet these gains only accrue to one of the two states.”
He pointed out that though Nigeria’s major source of income was crude oil exports, 100 percent of the freight earned from transporting crude to foreign buyers went to foreign ship-owners and foreign-owned shipping companies.
According to him, “With Nigeria’s local refineries operating at very marginal levels, and Dangote’s refinery project yet to be completed, Nigeria remains a major importer of clean petroleum products. As is the case with the export of crude oil, transporting clean petroleum products into Nigeria to meet our local consumption is also done by foreign-owned vessels, fostering huge volumes of foreign exchange capital flight.”
He, therefore, harped on the need for government officials in Nigeria to create an environment that would support the growth of competitive, indigenously owned tonnage. He also charged private stakeholders to develop the technical and commercial capabilities required to operate and compete on an international level.