Nigeria’s over dependence on foreign ship owners is putting Nigerians in danger and threatening national security as well the economy, an expert in the maritime sector have warned.
Bem Ibrahim Garba, MD/CEO, GOG Marine Ltd, said Nigeria needs to urgently develop it’s indigenous fleet with merchant navy and a capable maritime labour force (seafarers) to control of transportation requirements and the supporting infrastructure.
Garba in a statement at the weekend, noted that over 47 maritime nations in the world have already instituted various variants of the law restricting foreign participation to domestic coastal trades, in order to enhance national security.
“In times of peace or conflict, Nigerians know that Nigeria currently survives on imported fuel, imported food, imported medicine, imported raw materials, imported energy, imported cars, etc. What many Nigerians do not realize is the danger we face should international politics prevent foreign owned ships from transporting these consumables that we depend on daily.
“The above threat is possible and as a matter of urgency, we must begin to aggressively drive the growth of our indigenous fleet. With this we must also aggressively pursue the development of world class ship architecture, building and repair capabilities.
“Should these resources ever be needed, they should already be available to mobilized from our indigenous industry to repair, convert and build or modify boats for our military use”, he said.
The expert added that Nigeria must begin to appreciate the value of a seafarer, which according to him, can be a critical resource during times of emergency or war.
He further stated that an indigenous ship managers would secure more contracts from oil majors and other clients that would enable them to develop the cash flows and balances needed to acquire new ships and grow amount of tonnage owned locally.
“The local supply of shipbuilding and ship repair skills would also grow as the local demand for these skill increase.
The revenues earned from freight and other maritime support services provided locally are subject to local taxes. Freight paid to foreign companies promotes capital flight”, he said.
Garba, therefore advised that Nigeria needs to strongly implement its Cabotage Act to redirect the flow of foreign exchange earnings from capital flight to the FIRS. The Act, according to him, provides a clear path to increasing the employment and training opportunities for Nigerian seafarers, at the same time creating income opportunities for 1,000s of Nigerians who will provide ship support services across the country.
He further said aggressively implementing the Act is critical to Nigeria’s economic and national security wellbeing. “We must work to regain the undue advantage that we have unconscientiously handed foreign governments over our economy and our national security”, he said.
“I would strongly suggest that with the President’s recent approval to re-engineer the country’s national security architecture, The National Security Adviser’s Office, NIMASA, and the Ministry of Finance further explore collaborative ways to actualize the benefits that accrue to Nigeria from the effective implementation of our Cabotage Act”, he added.