The former President of the Nigerian Bar Association and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Olisa Agbakoba, has called on the Federal Government to tap into the enormous potential in the maritime industry estimated at N7 trillion annually as a measure to contain the effect of falling oil prices on the economy of the country.
Agbakoba, who disclosed in his office in Lagos, said tapping into the potentials of the sector had become imperative as the budget for this year is already being threatened by falling oil price.
He called on the government to make it matter urgency, to remove any hindrance that will make achieving that possible.
According to him, “there is massive untapped revenue in our maritime sector estimated at N7 trillion per annum. In order to tap revenue from this sector, there will be need for overhaul of policy, institutional, regulatory and legal framework”.
“Nigeria’s shipping policy framework is outdated and incoherent. The last major review was 28 years ago, that is, the Nigerian Shipping Policy Act No 10 of 1987. As a result, Nigeria’s ports have become uncompetitive; shippers have been pushed outside the shores of Nigeria”.
He further lamented that as a result of the many problems of transacting business in the Nigerian Ports, Importers wee rather patronising nearby ports in Benin Republic and Togo.
Agbakoba added that the development was as result of lack of proper regulation in the sector which has led to a number of problems ranging from exorbitant port charges, traffic gridlock and other bottlenecks that have made Nigerian ports unattractive to investors.
“New laws are urgently required. There are raft of bills before the national assembly such as the Petroleum Information Bill ( PIB), The Ports and Harbour Bill, the Bill establishing the economic regulator (Shipping Sector), and the maritime zones bill etc, waiting to be passed. It is even incumbent to review Nigeria’s ocean policy to tap the abundant national resources”.
The former president of NBA added that “Revenue generation should be a topical issue. How can Nigeria survive in view of the dwindling fortunes in the oil sector? This should have been made a key campaign issue. Elsewhere, economic issue, immigration and labour dominate campaigns”.
“It is high time the contestant speak their minds on these issues which is critical to the nation. Furthermore, shipping and maritime sector are crucial to maximizing oil potentials because ships, rigs are classified as vessels under our laws. Thus a strong shipping framework is fundamental to strong oil economy and a country such as Nigeria can only ignore it to the detriment of her economy,” he concluded.