The Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, on Thursday said the Federal Government had approved a new maritime security infrastructure initiative to tackle piracy and sea robbery on Nigerian waterways.
Amaechi disclosed this at the opening ceremony of the 3rd Conference of Association of African Maritime Administrations (AAMA) held in Abuja.
He said that government had taken further steps to facilitate shipping activities to encourage indigenous ship owners to participate in domestic and international shipping trade.
“The government has recently approved a new maritime security infrastructure initiative to tackle piracy and sea robbery on our waterways.
“ In addition, government has taken further steps to facilitate shipping activities and trade which include; establishment of a dedicated fund, the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) to encourage and enhance capacity of our indigenous ship owners ,“ the minister said.
He also said that government was also willing to implement Marine Pollution Convention (MARPOL) to address environmental challenges and to raise the standard of Nigerian seafarers to be competitive internationally.
The minister, however, implored member nations to support the interest of Nigeria to contest the IMO Category “C” election to give the continent a respectable voice in the council.
Amaechi said that what was required to move Africa forward was a concerted and co-operative spirit amongst Africans.
“It is our expectation that this conference will address how to redeem our pride from our policy, retrieve insecurity from our restive waters, fish our profit from our seas and sail unwavering to our goals.
“We cannot allow our international partners to set agenda and champion our maritime cause for us.
Africa’s seas should contribute to economic and environmental security and improve policies for ocean governance.
“We own our waters and our resources, so we must lead the way and outline our vision.
“Nigeria is ever ready to work with our brothers, sisters and partners to deepen this cooperation, “ Amaechi said.
In a message, the President of the Senate, Sen. Bukola Saraki, said that AAMA was a veritable instrument for creating convergence and viability in the practice of maritime administration and safety in Africa.
Saraki, represented by Sen. Bala Na’allah, said that “the National Assembly supports the initiative and hopes that African maritime market will very soon have a new lease of life to enable full integration into the world best maritime zones’’.
“It is my hope that this year’s convention will seek to focus attention on finding new ways of curtailing the current abusive exploitation and use of African maritime resources.
“We must put heads together to tackle the menace of pirates within our waters. This we can only do through high sense of collective engagement and shared resources, “ he said.
The Speaker, House of Representatives, Rep. Yakubu Dogara, said that the exploitation of Africa’s vast ocean and resources held the key to economic revival of Nigeria and the continent.
Dogara described the oceans and seas as “common heritage of mankind’’.
“Developed countries have done a better job in exploring the oceans and we in the developing countries should do so.
“Nigeria is potentially a major maritime tower, considering the breadth of the exclusive economic zone,“ the speaker said.
He said that Nigeria had domesticated eight important conventions and protocols on maritime environment towards a clear, secured and safe marine environment.
Dogara recalled that last week, the House of Representatives passed the National Transport Commission (NTC) Bill and pledged to speed up passage of many other maritime bills for suppression of piracy.
The theme of the conference is “Sustainable use of African Oceans and Seas’’.