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Prioritising export: NPA meets STPOA, sets timeline for service level agreement

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Determined to sustain the increase in several export cargo arising from the Nigerian Ports Authority’s (NPA) licensing of Export Processing Terminals (EPTs), Managing Director/CEO of NPA, Mohammed Bello KoKo has received executives of the Satellite Truck Park Owners Association (STPOA) at the NPA Headquarters in Marina.

The meeting which focused on placing the needed priority on export cargo in response to the national exigency of boosting exports to strengthen Nigeria’s balance of trade, also set a timeline for the strict implementation of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) governing truck management and satellite park operations to ensure adherence to best practices.

The Mohammed Bello KoKo-led management of the NPA had recently unleashed stringent measures in collaboration with the Lagos State Government that eliminated the decade-long traffic gridlock that had undermined the ease of doing business around the Lagos Ports corridor.

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Maritime

Deep Blue project as catalyst to Nigeria’s maritime development

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By Kumuyi Oluwafemi

Activities in the seas and oceans have continued to become a source of concern for the global community, as it serves as a veritable source of economic development and wealth creation, owing to the numerous resources embedded therein, thereby necessitating the need to ensure the sustainable use of these resources for nature and humanity.

Undoubtedly, the seas and oceans cater for over 80 percent of trade universally, as proven by researchers in the field of maritime studies; hence, the need for conscious efforts by humankind to preserve them for posterity.

Stakeholders across the globe are making deliberate efforts to ensure the sustainable use and harnessing of opportunities in the seas and the oceans for the use and benefits of nature and humanity.

Furthermore, research has it that resources in oceans, with an increasing interest in economic capabilities with their contribution to the global economy will double from US$1,5 trillion in 2010 to US$3 trillion by the year 2030. Upon this premise, various governments and corporate entities worldwide are making intentional efforts to utilise the investments derivable from the oceans including fisheries, aquaculture, tourism, bioprospecting, seabed mining, oil and gas, renewable energy and shipping, all culminating into the Blue Economy concept.

The Blue Economy concept has reached the height of global acceptability, as it has continued to take the centre stage in global discourse, which also aligns with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDGs), aimed at tackling poverty, hunger, amongst others as listed in the 17 Goals.

Ultimately, the maritime sector has huge roles to play in the actualisation of the UNSDGs, as the Blue Economy mantra remains a beacon of hope to the world at large, as the oceans have remained a driver for economic development, job creation and wealth creation.

It aims to utilise sustainable use of ocean resources for development opportunities in the Exclusive Economic Zones of coastal nations globally. Researchers have described the blue economy concept as the approach of actualising long-term prosperity by a region or a country towards the citizens’ overall well-being and humanity in general.

Meanwhile, these ecosystems face several challenges ranging from over exploitation of its resources, human activities, among other issues threatening the sustainable use of the resources embedded in the seas and the oceans.

This does not exclude discussions on climate change issues, which is also a growing concern for many organisation; including the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and its member states to grapple with to harness the full potentials of the Blue Economy.

All these have led to the drafting of integrated strategies and frameworks that will help fulfil a continental, regional and national prosperity, and wealth creation regime through the sustainable uses of the seas and the oceans. Aware of the massive opportunities in the Nigeria seas and oceans and the need to ensure a diversified economy, the Nigerian Federal Government adopted a multipronged approach to utilising the resources in the region, known as the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure Project, also known as the Deep Blue Project.

The aim of this Deep Blue Project is to secure the Nigeria’s territorial waters from all forms of illegalities ranging from piracy, Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, overfishing, among others, with the overall goal of promoting increased shipping activities, while also encouraging investors’ participation, thereby bringing in Foreign Direct Investments (FDis) to the country. Interestingly, Nigeria has a vast coastline of about 853 kilometres, in addition to about 3,000 kilometres of navigable inland waterways, which shows the enormous resources the country has; hence the need to preserve the oceans for economic development.

Therefore, the concept of the Deep Blue Project is to ensure that a holistic approach is taken into consideration t o prevent all forms of illegalities on the Nigerian territorial waters. Enforcement, regional cooperation, the building of a swift response capability and robust maritime domain awareness, among other issues form part of the initiatives of the Deep Blue Project, which has continued to yield results, as Nigeria has exited global piracy list, with ongoing discussions to exclude Nigeria from War Risk Insurance countries.

The initiative comprises a Command, Control, Communication, Computers, and Intelligence (C41) Operation Centre operated by trained military and civilian personnel.

The training includes physical techniques, in addition to technology, to tackle maritime crimes in the nation’s territorial waters. The centre domiciled with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA in Lagos, consists of a maritime intelligence system that will ensure data authenticity while creating a reliable global maritime picture to understand the ‘Patterns of Life’ of vessels and reveal risk indicators.

The system, programmed to detect criminal activities, also gives early warnings on emerging threats on activities on the Nigerian waters, thereby enabling prompt action to prepare and dispatch undercover and military vessels to take decisive action.

The project involves personnel from the Nigerian Armed Forces, Air Force, Army, Navy, Police, Department of State Services and officers of NMASA.

Aside from the C4i operational centre, the Deep Blue project also involves purchasing special mission vessels and armoured vehicles, operated by trained personnel to allow for effective manning of the Nigerian maritime domain.

The land assets include 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol and 600 specially trained troops for interdiction, known as Maritime Security Unit (MSU). The sea assets include 2 Special Mission Vessels and 17 Fast Interceptor Boats.

The air assets comprise two Special Mission Aircraft for surveillance of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); three Special Mission Helicopters for search and rescue operations; and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.

To give credence to the Deep Blue Project, the Federal Government of Nigeria, in 2019 signed into law the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offenses (SPOMO) Act, aimed at enhancing the regime of prosecution of offenders. Since this Act came into law, it has enhanced prosecution of about 30 persons, punished for various offences.

The signing into law of this Act gives force to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982 and the Convention on Suppression of Unlawful Acts against navigation safety (SUA), 1988.

Being the first of its kind in the West and Central African Sub-Region, the lawsuit addresses the international requirement for separate legislation for tackling piracy and other related maritime offences in the Nigerian waters and by extension, the Gulf of Guinea.

As part of efforts to bolster the opportunities in the Nigerian maritime sector, in August 2023, the Federal Government of Nigeria under the leadership of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR accorded a “special status” to the maritime sector by creating a Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy; a move that stakeholders have described as a step in the right direction.

The Ministry has continued to provide direction for the sector in order to harness the resources in the oceans.

Suffice to state that Nigeria’s exit from piracy list has received several commendation from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and stakeholders in the global maritime community; this can be alluded to the synergetic approach NIMASA has put in place in order to reap the benefits of the Deep Blue Project.

To underscore the importance of the maritime sector to economic development, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dayo Mobereola, during a meeting with top Management staff of the Agency emphasised the need to align the Agency’s objectives to presidential priorities without losing sight of the Agency’s core functions.

These areas include to develop and implement National Policy on Marine and Blue Economy, Enhance Maritime Safety, Security and Compliance to global acceptable standards, Promote Indigenous Participation in the maritime sector in line with Cabotage Act, and Sustain Zero Incident Report for Nigeria in the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy.

All these require collaboration, which will lead to information gathering and sharing, with the Deep Blue initiative playing a pivotal role in the actualisation of the aforementioned priorities.

During the Operation Maritime Capability Demonstration, held in Lagos, Mobereola, while addressing the media, gave the assurance that the Agency is committed to the sustainability of the project.

He said, “This project has earned Nigeria International recognition by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), and we have been taken off the piracy list. The aim is to continue to sustain it, and we will continue to encourage the personnel of the Deep Blue Project to keep it up, while we on our own side would continue to support you as much as possible.

“Please, do not reduce your efforts, as we count on you to make the maritime space more secure. The President of Nigeria is counting on you, the Honourable Minister of Marine and Blue Economy; Adegboyega Oyetola is also in support of this project.”

It is therefore apt to state that the Deep Blue Project has put Nigeria on the global pedestal, and has helped to reduce piracy activities on the nation’s waterways and by extension, the Gulf of Guinea, as NIMASA Management has consistently reiterated zero tolerance to illegalities on our waters.

The author of this piece wishes to emphasize the need for the Federal Government to invest in Research and Development in order to optimise the benefits in the sector. It is no gainsaying that the maritime sector if well utilised can contribute massively to the Gross Domestic Products (GDP) of Nigeria. Stakeholders, on their part, have a part to play, as the government should continue to provide the enabling environment for businesses to thrive.

Conclusively, the cliché “potential” commonly used to describe the opportunities in the sector should be made a reality, so that the Blue Economy rationale will not become mere theoretical or rhetoric; rather, the government should adopt a practical approach, by engaging the professionals in the industry, whilst also walking the talk.

There is still a lot to do in achieving a robust maritime sector in Nigeria. With all these in place, Dr. Mobereola stands the chance to write his name in Gold, and posterity will be kind to him, as he makes efforts to calibrate the Nigerian maritime sector towards economic growth and development.

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Maritime

JAPA: SIFAX Boss advocates review of doctors’ salary at Investiture as Chancellor

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Chairman, SIFAX Group, Dr. Taiwo Afolabi has called on the government to improve the remuneration of health workers in the country in order to stem the tide of migration of doctors and other health workers out of Nigeria.

While speaking at his investiture as the Chancellor of Gerar University of Medical Sciences, Imope-Ijebu, Ogun state, Afolabi said this mass migration of health professionals, especially doctors and nurses, out of Nigeria known as Japa has negatively affected the country’s health care delivery.

He said that the ugly trend must be frontally tackled by the government and further noted that aside from the provision of modern equipment and tools at public health facilities across the country to improve service rendered, priority attention must also be devoted to the welfare of these dispirited health professionals who are left in the country.

He said, “Many of our competent medical hands have been lost to countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia among other developed economies where sufficient encouragement in terms of remuneration, modern work tools, and a conducive working environment have been provided to attract talents from all over the world.

”This migration by young Nigerians has negatively affected almost every sector of the country, but it is safe to conclude that the health sector has been the biggest victim of this JAPA syndrome. The few doctors, nurses, and other health professionals that are left in the country are overworked and grossly underpaid when compared to their counterparts globally.

”This has negatively impacted the quality of services patients could access in our public health institutions.  Our governments, at all levels, need to be strategic and proactive in tackling this menace. Pay for health workers must be improved while a conducive environment that will make them thrive and be fulfilled professionally must be provided.”

Afolabi, who lauded the proprietor and management of the specialized institution for their foresight in establishing the university at a time the country needs to produce more quality health workers, said Gerar University of Medical Sciences has the capacity to become a reference point and a centre of excellence in medical education and research in the country.

Prof. Niyi Adetoro, the institution’s Vice Chancellor, said the new university will leverage technology and innovation to drive its vision, adding that the support of corporate organisations and public-spirited individuals will be required to support the university’s ambitious vision, which has necessitated an endowment fund of N500 million.

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Stakeholders unanimously endorse ‘Repeal and Re-Enactment’ of Shippers’ Council Bill

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In a resounding show of support, stakeholders in the maritime industry have overwhelmingly accepted the proposed repeal and re-enactment of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council and Economic Regulatory Bill during a public hearing held at the National Assembly in Abuja.

The public hearing, which was attended by representatives from various sectors of the industry, including shipping companies, freight forwarders, and cargo owners, saw a unanimous endorsement of the proposed legislation.

The new bill, which seeks to repeal the existing Nigerian Shippers’ Council Act and enact a new Shippers’ Council and Economic Regulatory Act, aims to strengthen the regulatory framework for the maritime industry and promote economic growth.

Recall that following the Federal Government’s announcement of the NSC as a Port economic regulator, the agency has struggled to enforce sanctions on ports and shipping stakeholders in the nation’s maritime sector due to the absence of an enabling law backing up their status as a Port Economic Regulator.

Stakeholders, on Monday, praised the proposed legislation for its provisions, which include the establishment of a more effective and efficient regulatory framework, the promotion of competition and innovation, and the protection of the rights of shippers and other stakeholders.

During the public hearing organised by the Committee on Shipping Services and Related Matters, the Executive Secretary/ CEO of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council, Pius Ukeyima Akutah, described the legislation as timely at this stage of our nation’s growth and development.

He said the need for a regulatory regime to ensure effective and efficient economic regulation for the control of tariffs, rates and charges to prevent arbitrariness is necessary.

Among many others, Akutah said the Bill will enhance the ease of doing business, minimize the high cost of doing business at the ports, ensure seamless movement of cargo, promote competition and enhance the quality of service.

“The Bill essentially embellishes the fundamentals of Economic Regulation, making all actors play by the rules,” he added.

“The Nigerian Government is evolving a Regulatory Agenda across all sectors, with economic contribution as the goal. The shipping industry should not be an exception.

“There is, therefore, no better time than now to enact this, Bill. I therefore most respectfully, urge esteemed stakeholders to make meaningful contributions toward its immediate passage and enactment.”

He further expressed his gratitude to the stakeholders for their support and assured them that the council would continue to work towards ensuring a conducive business environment for all players in the industry.

Chief Adebayo Sarumi, a former CEO of the Shippers Council said a regulatory body is late by no less than 20 years.

According to him, this will bring about a level playing field, and regulatory services and ensure that the consumers do not suffer.

Malam Hassan Bello, a former CEO of the Shippers Council said the Bill will be a crowning glory of the Federal Government’s efforts in the maritime sector.

“This proposed agency will fill the regulatory vacuum that has bedevilled the sector, the reason the ports are not making contributions. It will end the monopoly.

“The bill is fundamental and essential and will correct anomalies and guarantee efficiency and use of tech in port operation.”

Meanwhile, Boma Alabi, SAN, representing the Shipping Lines Association of Nigeria said the body welcomes any act that will improve efficiency, lower costs and reduce bottlenecks.

She further said the Nigerian ports cost the nation twice as much as our neighbours.

Ahmed Rabiu, a concerned stakeholder said the Bill has been overdue since the time ports were concessioned, calling for its speedy consideration.

Other stakeholders like the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), and the Nigeria Economic Summit Group backed the development.

In separate remarks, they said the absence of a regulatory agency stifled economic activities.

They further said the passage of the Bill will have a positive impact on the maritime industry, leading to increased efficiency, reduced costs, and improved services for shippers and other stakeholders.

Meanwhile, the Chairman of House of Representatives Committee on Shipping Services and Related Matters, Hon. Abdussamad Dasuki, who spoke to journalists after the Public Hearing, said that so far what the Committee is doing is to collate memoranda from all stakeholders before presenting the report before the House of Representatives for a third reading.

He explained that what the Bill seeks is to repeal a law which prevents the Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) from enforcing a presidential directive which deals with port economic regulation.

According to Dasuki, “We are still collating memoranda. You know the next process is to present the report to the House of Representatives for consideration.

“The public hearing today (Monday) showed that every stakeholder in the Nigerian Maritime industry wants an economic regulator for the industry. The era of impunity has to stop. There are no concerns from everybody. The stakeholders’ input were very useful and educative for us today.

“The bill is to repeal a law which is preventing the Nigerian Shippers Council from enforcing a presidential directive concerning economic regulation of the ports. The nation’s maritime industry is overdue for this, and we will see to its implementation.”

In his welcome address, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Abbas Tajudeen, said the new Bill is targeted at improving economic growth, development as well as diversification that will strengthen the Marine and Blue Economy.

The amendment of the NSC Act, according to him, was to achieve effective and efficient regulation in the shipping industry and ensure an enabling environment for private sector participation.

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