Maritime journalists have commended the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) on its recent directive to industry stakeholders to accord recognition only to the bodies accredited by it, which are a product of the on-going merger of associations in the sector.
The accredited bodies are the Federated Maritime Media Chapel (FMMC) led by Chief George Umunnakwe and the new Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN), which election of its executives would be concluded shortly.
Recall that at the flag-off of a three-day training programme for maritime journalists by Eyis Resources Limited in Apapa, Monday, the NUJ, Lagos State Council, Chairman, Mr. Deji Elumoye, had cautioned stakeholders to discountenance a renegade group trying to discredit the on-going merger arrangement.
Elumoye, who was represented at the event by the Secretary of the Council, Mr. Alfred Ochifo, had explained that the coming together of journalists in the maritime sector was the handiwork of the NUJ President, Mr. Waheed Odusile, through the Lagos State Council.
He urged stakeholders to discourage media touting in the sector by dealing only with the new merging group.
Meanwhile, participants at the three-day training programme decried the poor state of underfunding of the nation’s maritime sector (shipping development), which is the core function of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
They observed that no Nigerian had benefited from the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF) as enshrined in the NIMASA Act, regretting that ten years after the passage of the Act, the agency had not applied the fund for its purpose, which was for indigenous ship fleet expansion.
The participants noted that Nigeria would have been a developed shipping nation if NIMASA had applied all the laws in its Act, pointing out that this would have created abundant job opportunities for over 40 per cent of Nigerian youths.
The forum’s reactions were contained in a communiqué issued at the end of the programme on Wednesday.
“It is observed that NIMASA is treating the 25 per cent maritime fund as if it is its belonging. Participants categorically stated that the fund belongs to indigenous shipowners.
“On the disbursement of CVFF and to safeguard default, NIMASA is advised to put in place appropriate mechanism for qualified indigenous ship operators to access the fund without further hindrances.
“The Federal Ministry of Transportation was also cautioned not to use any part of CVFF Fund for the establishment of the proposed new national carrier.
“On the funding of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron, the Federal Government is charged to create a special fund for the academy”, the communiqué stated.
It went further, “Participants, after examining the benefits of Cost, Insurance and Freight (CIF) and Freight on Board (FOB), called on the government to adopt FOB for all Nigerian inbound and outbound cargoes because of the inherent benefits that will accrue to the nation instead of CIF the country is using presently.
“On the Single Window platform, the government was called upon to establish the proper Single Window because of its ability to: enhance, simplify, and expedite information flow between traders and government; harmonization and better sharing of data; effective and cost reduction to government and traders. Participants call for the enactment of an enabling law on Single Window by the National Assembly”, it added.
The forum regretted “that presently, the Board of the Nigeria Customs Service is not constituted. All the actions (recruitment, promotion, termination of appointments, redeployment and policy formulation) being exercised by the Comptroller General of Customs are in contravention of the CEMA law.
“The participants charged the government to urgently constitute the Board of Customs for the smooth running of the Service”.
Participants took a swipe at the Federal Government for rushing into the concession of the ports without an enabling Act, even as a ports regulator was not taken into consideration ab initio, resulting in the current high cost of doing business at the sea ports.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) was charged by the participants to commence the upgrading and reconstruction of the ports’ access roads for smooth business operation at the nation’s ports.
They also recommended that there should be constant availability of information and data within the limit of the provisions of Freedom of Information (FOI) Act to enable journalists have materials for their jobs to check alleged frequent cases of misinformation, misrepresentation or misquotation by media practitioners.
“Maritime journalists, as the watchdog of the industry, should brace up by seeking for more knowledge, aiming at tackling the communication gap confronting the maritime sector”, the participants concluded.