Jimi Agbaje, a former governorship candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) for Lagos State, has said that the marine industry in Nigeria is one that can bring in billions of dollars into the country’s revenue, and that Gboyega Oyetola, the minister of Marine and Blue economy, should solve the issues in the industry.
In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Thursday, Agbaje said that the maritime industry is one that if harnessed properly, can bring in more revenue for the country and better the economy.
Agbaje said, “When we’re talking about Nigeria, I think the lowest hanging fruit for us, in terms of rapid growth, would be our maritime industry, the ports. If you look at out ports today, you’ll find that if you look at the figures of the NPA (Nigerian Ports Authority), I think NPA has some six ports, their half year results, shows them doing about just under N200 billion in terms of revenue. So, if you extrapolate that to one year, you’re talking about 400 billion, that’s what, under $500 million. And what they’ve given to government in half year is about a quarter.
“So, it means all Nigeria is earning from our ports today is just over a hundred million dollars. Now, if you now put that with the Lekki deep sea port for example and look at the projections, where they project that at its full (capacity), they’re looking at about $300 billion, where the federal and state government will be collecting about 200 billion dollars. So, in terms of today how we hit the ground running for that industry is to say look, these ports, we can do a lot more.”
When Agbaje was asked what can be done to get the maritime industry and the ports to work better, he said, “I think the issue is to first get the ones we have right. You see, the ports business is very competitive. If we look at the rankings for ports, there is no Nigerian port in Africa that is first 10. So, when you are ranking the first 10 ports in Africa, Africa’s largest economy does not even rank, none of our ports ranks in.
“And basically, you access the efficiency of ports and the way they generate their activity. It is basically based on two factors; access of ships to your ports, access in terms of ease of coming in, of the size of ships that you can receive, and also, how you then handle the land movement from and to the ports. So, that tells you, like I said, the NPA has 6 ports, it’s got Apapa complex, it’s got Tin Can, and it’s got four in the Niger Delta, and you just find out that those four are, of course, not doing much. Lagos is congested, but it’s congested, it’s not efficient because it’s not doing right.”
Agbaje then spoke on the issues that come into play, saying that there was a deficit in storage at the ports. He also said that there was a lack in human capacity, as well as logistics. Giving his opinion on how the minister could solve these issues, he said, “Hitting the ground running for the minister is to look at the present ports. Look at Lagos, look at Tin Can Island, Apapa, and say what is the problem? Why is it that it is taking such a long turnaround time? Look at how we can get the ships to come in. And once you can correct that, look at the concession.
“I think within the last one week, we had issues of even concessioner’s report that they were not even paying their fees to government. Look at them, those that are not making it work, it has to go. It might be a time to decongest the kind of concessioning that they have done in that place, because really the only way those ports are going to work is to improve the access from the sea and also to and from land. Once you can get that right, then, activities will improve.
“Of course, like I said, capacity, the dock workers, you have to build capacity, they have to be trained. Logistics, storage, these are some of the issues that come into play. And once you can get that right, then it’s easier to work on the Niger Delta, because the essence of the Niger Delta port was to service the oil and gas sector., was also to be able to get goods to the hinterlands up north and all, but they’re not functional, and I think we have to just get it right and we will get better”
Jimi Agbaje, who campaigned with the promise of an oceanic economy when he ran for governor in recent years, said that there are many opportunities in the use of water in not just Lagos, but in the whole of Nigeria. He then said that it was a way to bring around rapid economic growth, which is what Nigeria needs.
Agbaje said, “We then said, look, if Lagos is 25% water, what can we do? How can we leverage on that asset, because it becomes an asset. And we looked at job creation, we looked at food security, we looked at water transportation, we looked at it in terms of logistics based for the Gulf of Guinea… We looked at it in terms of enhancing the aquatic splendour of Lagos, and of course, have tourism built on that. And basically, those were the key points in terms of the ocean economy, and it’s a big, I mean, there is huge potential. That was for a sub-national state like Lagos, but when you look at it from the national point of view, it’s even bigger. I mean, if you look at the records you will find that you’re looking at, today, a record of $1.5 trillion business globally. 3 billion people employed across the globe. I think for Africa, we have figures of about $300 billion dollars.