By Godfrey Bivbere & Favour Elioku
FORMER National President of the Nigerian Trawler Owners Association, NITOA, Margaret Orakwusi, has accused Nigerian banks of not encouraging investment in the shipping industry through their high interest rate.
Orakwusi, who made this known at the Taiwo Afolabi annual maritime conference hosted by the Maritime Forum of the University of Lagos, said banks are not interested in long term investment but short term ones that can guaranty quick returns.
She attributed lack of interest in funding shipping operations in Nigeria to poor security in Nigerian waters. “We still talk about sea piracy, we still talk about smugglers. Every investor needs security and finance. Banks are not interested in long-term investment. Investment in shipping is not cash and carry business, you buy a vessel amounting to millions then Nigerian banks will ask you to pay interest of about 20 to 30 percent over that long period. You spend the whole of your lifetime working for banks.
“I think another big problem is getting cheap finance, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, is working on it. He has identified the huge gap in indigenous ownership of vessels and has set up a committee to look into it and advise him.
“Now it is sad if we do not encourage him in the growth of the Nigerian fleet. A lot of people misunderstand it and call it a Nigerian shipping line. It is wrong for anybody to see that and say he is going to fail.”
She frowned at the fact that Nigeria has remained an import dependent nation and stressed the need for government to begin to exploit the goods that are exportable.
“I don’t think we should forever remain a consuming nation, who is consuming our own goods? What that means is that we need to highlight our resources, we need to produce our own goods, we need to provide employment in this country, we cannot forever remain an import driven economy.
“I believe we should generate our cargo; we should carry our cargo and we should provide services. When you talk about maritime transportation, everyone knows how it affects us. It affects us as lawyers; they have robbed us as lawyers of effective participation in drawing up agreement that helps our environment go forward because with increase in Nigerian fleet, we will have jobs.