Nigeria’s maritime industry can fund national budget, says expert
BY FRANCIS EZEM
A maritime expert and Rector of Certified Institute of Shipping, Rev. Alex Okwuashi, has said that Nigeria’s maritime industry has all it takes to fund substantial portion of the country’s annual budget but for challenges associated with dearth of investments, poor funding, lack of government attention and the deplorable state of infrastructure in this all-important segment of the economy.
Okwuashi, who was represented by Mr. Gabriel Eto, a lecturer at the institute at the maiden edition of the annual economic growth summit organised in Lagos by the Nigerian Economic Growth Summit Group NEGSG, spoke on the theme: “Making Nigeria’s Maritime Sub-Sector the Dominant National Budget Financier” observing that the maritime industry has the potential to form a huge component of the total budgetary requirements of the country, if properly harnessed.
According to him, within the transport sector, the maritime sub sector is treated like a distant relation, a development, he argued explains why issues relating to the industry are not accorded the urgency and importance they deserve, insisting that the critical infrastructure that would drive the growth of the industry are conspicuously absent.
“Critical national infrastructure refers to processes, systems, facilities, technologies, networks, assets, and services essential to the health, safety, security or economic wellbeing of the society, economy and the effective functioning of government. The maritime transport sub sector is a critical national infrastructure and it holds the key to making Nigeria a globally competitive economy.
“The maritime sub sector has the potential to form a huge component of the total budgetary requirements of the country, if properly harnessed. Within the transport sector, the maritime sub sector is treated like a distant relation and that explains why issues relating to the sector are not accorded the urgency and importance they deserve”, he said.
The CIS rector noted that Nigeria is a notable maritime economy whose potentialities are yet to be fully harnessed, saying that this segment of the nation’s economy is ranked second to oil in terms of revenue earnings, which he believes has all it takes in surpass the petroleum sector in terms of funding the national budget if the vast potential are harnessed and utilised effectively. He also said: “Nigeria’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan ERGP rests on the tripod of growth restoration, investment in people through various social investment programmes and building a globally competitive economy by focusing on critical infrastructure.
“However, without an effective and efficient maritime transport infrastructure, the viability and efficiency of the Nigerian economy would be in jeopardy. Indeed, the economic growth of Nigeria has become inexorably related to developments and improvements in the maritime sub sector.”
He listed some of the challenges bedeviling the maritime industry to include the under provision of budgetary allocation to the entire transport sector, which he said dates back to the National Development Plan (1962-1985), arguing that whatever affects the general transport sector, invariably affects the maritime sub sector.
Another challenge, according to him, is the fluctuating and inconsistent nature of fiscal policies in terms of total capital outlay of the nation’s government towards the transport sector, which overtime explains the poor standard of transport system in the country in addition to the lopsided budgetary allocation, which he insists is responsible for the poor marine transport infrastructure, among several others.
He therefore charged the government to take deliberate steps to make strategic investments in maritime transport infrastructure or put adequate measures in place that would attract private investors to the industry that would enhance the tapping of its huge potential that would fuel economic growth and development.