President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki


The Senate, Nigeria’s upper legislative chamber is currently considering the possibility of the creation of Federal Ministry of Maritime/Shipping as part of efforts to come up with framework that would facilitate optimum harnessing and utilisation of the nation’s rich blue economic potential.

Member of Senate Committee on Maritime Transport, Senator Mao Ohuabunnwa, who gave the hint, disclosed that the committee would commence work on a bill to create the Ministry of Maritime or Shipping like what is obtained in the Aviation Ministry, which he said is in line with the policy of the Federal Government to diversify the economy from the current over-dependence on the oil and gas sector.

He noted that when passed into law, the bill will harmonise the operations and activities of all the major government agencies in the maritime industry with a view to engendering effective regulation, geared towards optimum harnessing of the vast maritime potential, which have remained untapped and in the process boost revenue generation.

“Creation of Ministry of Maritime/Shipping is possible and desirable at this time, especially at this stage of the nation’s economic development. The Shipping/Maritime industry is by far bigger than the aviation industry, which already has a ministry. Same can be replicated in the maritime/shipping industry for effective coordination of the various agencies in terms of implementation of policies and programmes.

“Nigeria as an import-dependent nation and exporter of crude oil and gas cannot afford to toy with her shipping industry, which is crucial and life-wire of the economy. Creation of a Ministry for the industry would definitely give a better focus by promoting the much needed cohesion and harmony among the various agencies, which would now be coordinated by one Minister”, he said.

It was however gathered that in order to bring about effective coordination, agencies such as the Nigerian Ports Authority, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, both of which are currently under the Ministry of Transport, the Nigeria Customs Service, which is under the Ministry of Finance, the National Inland Waterways Authority and other core agencies that play significant roles in shipping and maritime activities would be brought under the new ministry.

On whether the President would easily assent to such bill, given that creation of such ministry may be viewed as duplication, which will also imply additional financial burden, he argued that the advantages of the creation of such ministry would by far outweigh the disadvantages, which might just be in terms of additional cost, adding that it would in the long run boost revenue generation.

According to him, just as the creation of Ministry of Aviation has brought under control the rampant cases of air mishap due to effective regulation, the creation of the new Maritime Ministry would lead to proper harnessing of the nation’s vast maritime resources, which would lead to creation of jobs, more revenue and make the country take its pride of place among comity of shipping nations.

Ohuabunwa, who is also member of Senate Committee on Works, assured that given the crucial role this proposed ministry will play in harnessing the nation’s maritime resources, which is equally strategic to the economic diversification policy of the government, the National Assembly would be left with no option than to veto the President if he decides to withhold his assent to the bill, but insisting that it may not even get to that level, given its strategic importance to the economy.

The Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside had since his appointment about two years ago championed the development of the nation’s vast blue economic potential, which he had repeatedly argued, holds a better future for the country more than the petroleum industry, which is currently the mainstay of the economy.

Peterside, who doubles as Chairman of Association of African Maritime Administrations AAMA, had insisted that the best way to achieve this would be to create the needed institutional and policy framework, arguing that in many countries, there are Ministries of Maritime Resources charged solely with policy formulation and regulation of the maritime industry.