Declining Maritime Sector Fortunes: “We Have Irresponsible Elites” – Prof Utomi

Declining Maritime Sector Fortunes: “We Have Irresponsible Elites” – Prof Utomi
Prof. Pat Utomi

 

…As NIMASA Plans Anchorage  Levy To Sustain Deep Blue Assets

·       Lagos ports make $2m daily

·       FG extends maritime assets to North

Pained by the progressive tumble of the nation’s economic fortunes but in particular the looming gloom in the maritime sector, the cerebral political economist and the founder of Centre for Values in Leadership(CVL),Prof Pat Utomi has described the leadership of the entire maritime parastatals as under-productive, saying their performance is a national tragedy against the background of poor international rating of the maritime industry with a N90trillion estimated assets capable of generating over N7trillion annually thereby creating 40 million jobs representing about  30 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product(GDP).

While bemoaning also the reality that the Lagos port only generates $2million daily out of a huge potential of $49million,Utomi regretted that the nation is suffocating with the irresponsibility of the elites in political and bureaucratic circles.

This is coming as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) is strategizing on how to sustain its maritime security architecture ,Deep Blue Assets through the introduction of levy at the Secured Anchorage Area(SAA).

 The Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Barr. Chudi Offodile, who disclosed this also said the Federal Government had directed the agency to deploy the maritime assets to the northern part of the country.

 According to Utomi, however, “There is an ample evidence that a  little seriousness by the government of this country regarding the maritime sector  and blue economy can smash unemployment  and grow this economy. But we are irresponsible about it”. 

Utomi who spoke at the December edition of the monthly Maritime BreakFast Meeting said he visited the Tangier Med Port in Morrocco and was astound at the facilities and operations, asserting that nobody reckons with Nigerian ports anymore among African ports.

According to the Lloyd’s third quarter report in 2022,Nigeria is ranked 100 over 100 with only four  African  ports in the word making the list of the busiest ports. While port of Lome ranked  96th, followed by Tangier Med of Morrocco. Port Said in Egypt and Port of  Duban of South Africa.

 

Speaking at the breakfast meeting, Prof Utomi said:”In fact, I visited Tangier Med recently. The Managing Director should be in Nigeria now for a programme.  Tangier Med is now one of the top 20 ports in the world. If you know what they are doing! I saw their facilities and took a briefing from the Managing Director.

“Tangier Med Port in Morocco handled 65 million tons of goods in 2019, jumped to 75 million tons in 2020 and 101 million tons in 2021. Imagine the leap in a short period.  Obviously, something is wrong with us, there is no other way to put it. 

“But the problem is with us because we sit here complaining. Look this guys in the face and say, ” You are a disgrace! You have not done your work.  If you don’t  know ask people to help you!”. Nigerian ports are not even considered ports anymore in Africa.  The level of irresponsibility here is outside this world. They create jobs for the boys, people who don’t understand the possibility of the industry and lack the national conscience.

“These parastals in the maritime sector are a disgrace and a disaster. It has to be said that a national tragedy has occurred.  All of them are building empire and the country is suffering. Everybody is a god unto himself.  We cannot continue like this. It is not possible.  Forcados used to be a real port for Nigeria in early colonial  days. Burutu and Warri ports, all were working. But we have allowed everything that makes sense to die in this country. 

“ Incompetent people have taken over our country at every level. It needs to stop.  You stakeholders should be the ones to take up the challenge. Sit down and engage anybody who wants to be  anything in the next political dispensation and ask them questions on what they are bringing to the  table,” he declared.

This month’s edition of breakfast with the theme:“Inter-Agencies Co-operation for Ports Operation Effectiveness” featured as usual participants from the maritime, financial, among others.

Among other speakers were, Barr. Funke Agbo,SAN, Dr. Chris Asoluka, Mrs. Rollens Macfoy, Dr. Muda Yusuf, Dr. Mk George Onyung, Capt. Dada Labinjo, Barr. Funmi Folunsho, Mrs Vivian Chimezie-Azubuike, Kashimana Tsumba,Mr. Asu Beks and Kingsley Anaroke.

 

Speaking during a panel session at just concluded 2022 national transport summit  hosted by the Chartered Institute of Transport and Administration of Nigeria(CIoTA) in Abuja, Barr Offodile explained why NIMASA is considering the introduction of levy at SAA which they took over from a private company that was charging between $1,500 and $2,500 per vessel.

He said NIMASA has had to absorb the cost at the moment but it is not sustainable, saying that since they took over following the cancellation of the contract by the Federal Government,“I will say to you that they(vessels) pay nothing. NIMASA has had to absorb  that cost. But I must say to you that it is not sustainable.

“And the directive of the Federal Government upon taken over that place did not instruct us to collect money or levy any vessel.  So, the whole idea is to reduce shipping charges and costs. But looking at the figures, which we are studying now, on what it will cost NIMASA annually on the average,  to sustain the deployment and maintenance of the deep blue  assets, the figure is humongous.

“So, it is not possible for NIMASA alone as an agency to bear that cost.  So, I think that the government will have to review the situation critically in terms of its sustainability and what we have achieved so far and decide  on the  funding and what we have achieved so far in maritime security.” Offodile said.

 On the question of government agencies  and ministries working in silos, the Executive Directors said,” Well, the agencies of the government were created with specific  jurisdiction. I agree that there should be some synergy. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited,NNPCL  is paying  so much to  a private company to   secure  the pipelines. Who is going to  pay  NIMASA to deploy  its deep blue assets to monitor these  pipelines?  If we have to do their job then they have to pay us because we pay to maintain our assets.  The cost of   personnel in operations alone to maintain our assets is heavy. So we must keep to our own jurisdiction.

According to him,”the Federal Government also has approved that we extend the deep blue assets to the northern part of the country, of course, you know the menace of banditry and kidnapping in the north. How is it going to be done?  It is all about cost. NIMASA cannot become the rescue agency of Federal Republic of Nigeria. So, I think that on our specific mandate we have done exceptionally well, at least, the Journalist  has acknowledged that like a few other people here. So, if the government directs and works out the funding mechanism, we have the structure to ensure that it is done.”

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