DG NIMASA, Dr, Dakuku Peterside

The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Nigeria’s apex maritime regulatory agency has reiterated its commitment towards adequate protection and optimal exploitation of the nation’s maritime space, which encompasses her rich blue economy.

The blue economy, also known as marine economy, does not apply to land locked countries and is used to describe maritime endowments among maritime nations such as vast coastlines, which promote water transportation, fisheries, aquatic life, oil and gas and other mineral deposits beneath the seabed.

Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who made this pledge, spoke at a one-day harmonised stakeholders interactive forum organised by the agency in Lagos on Friday with the theme: Synergy: An Instrument for Sustainable Development of the Blue Economy.

He argued that the maritime domain if properly harnessed could provide a veritable tool that would put Nigeria’s economy on a fast track of growth and development.

The DG noted that it has become expedient for stakeholders in the maritime industry whether public or private sector to partner and synergise toward adequate protection and optimal exploitation of the nation’s rich maritime potential, a development that also informed the convening of the conference.

He said: “We did not invite only government agencies such as the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Customs Service and the Nigerian Ports Authority but we also invited private sector operators because we needed to feel the pulse of the industry”.

“As a regulatory agency, you have three options in effectively regulating the industry, which includes setting the rules and watch the stakeholders to regulate themselves, adopting the traditional compliance option, which is to punish deviants and offenders of the rules and regulations and the third is to synergise with the stakeholders, agree with them on the best way to punish deviants. We have chosen the last option and in doing this, we will ensure that the maritime space is safe and optimally exploited”.

He therefore urged participants at the forum to be as blunt as possible in identifying to the agency hindrances or mistakes that have before now forestalled optimal tapping of the nation’s maritime potential be it in the area of Coastal and Inland Shipping Cabotage Act enforcement or in terms of shipping development, port and flag state control regulatory functions of the agency.

According to him, it would not benefit the industry if stakeholders only shower encomiums on the agency, having received so much of that from the Federal Executive Council, Association of Heads of African Maritime Administrations AAMA, or even as a recipient of the Tell Magazine Award as the best government agency in the industry.

“How can we do it better, we should come up with better ways of doing things in shipping development, etc so that we maximise the benefits of the nation’s blue economy. NIMASA has a Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Navy, why do we still have piracy attacks? Did we in any way abdicate our responsibilities in terms of maritime security, among several other questions? So we need to be told is the basic truth, not praises”.

“We do not have all the answers to these questions and that is the real essence and reason for this forum. We need to change the landscape of the Nigeria’s maritime domain so as to maximally tap the vast potential therein”, the DG also said.

Commander of the Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral S.P.G. Abbah, who represented the Chief of Naval Staff, while speaking at the event, commended the management of NIMASA for taking the initiative of bringing the stakeholders together in order to fully tap the vast potential in the nation’s blue economy.

He however identified the issue of funding as a major challenge facing the navy in the discharge of its duty of protecting the territorial integrity of the nation’s maritime space and therefore charged the National Assembly to make more budgetary allocations to the organisation.

Meanwhile, General Manager in charge of Marine of NPA, Captain Iheancho Ebubeogu, while delivering a goodwill message, said that the synergy in bringing public and private sector operators to charge a new course in taking full advantage of the nation’s rich maritime potential as undertaken by NIMASA was quite commendable.

He pointed out that over the years different agencies and stakeholders have not been able to foster any form of synergy, which has not helped the nation’s quest of maximally optimising her huge maritime potential, expressing the hope that things would begin to work for the better with the new initiative of synergising with stakeholders.