By Godfrey Bivbere & Ifeyinwa Obi
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, Olisa Agbakoba, has said that Nigerian bound cargo will continue to go to neighbouring countries before finding their way back into the country unless the federal government takes concrete steps to strengthen the nation’s policy, institutions, regulations and illegal framework.
Agbakoba who disclosed this in Lagos Wednesday, said that lack of regulations in the sector has led to a plethora of uncoordinated activities and exorbitant port charges which make Nigeria very unattractive for business.
According to him, “Government hardly implements its own policy thereby creating violating international trade facilitation laws.
“Nigeria’s shipping policy framework is outdated and incoherent. The last major review was 28 years ago i.e 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. Nigeria was designated to be a maritime hub for West and Central Africa, with potential to be a Maritime International Center, MIC but Nigerian Ports are being abandoned for those in Benin Republic and Togo.
“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 need to be an overhaul of policy, institutional, regulatory and legal framework.
“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.
“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.