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Marine and Blue Economy: How Oyetola fared in 9 months, By Adebayo Adedeji



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In August 2023, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu appointed the former governor of Osun State, Alhaji Adegboyega Oyetola, as the pioneer head of the new Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, the tasks ahead seemed daunting, but 9 months after, Oyetola has ignited the hope of many Nigerians as he has positioned marine and blue economy for productivity and economic prosperity.

On assumption of office, one of the very first decisions taken by the minister was to develop a comprehensive 4-year plan to address crucial deliverables of his portfolio, including port rehabilitation, efficiency enhancement and maritime safety and compliance to global acceptable practices.

The audience at the Radio House, Abuja, venue of the Sectoral Briefing on the achievement of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, was stunned when ex-Governor Oyetola rolled out his account of stewardship in celebration of the first anniversary of the President Bola Tinubu-led administration.

He noted that within the 9 months at the helms of affairs, his ministry had contributed remarkably to the country’s GDP.

The ministry, according to him, reported an increase in revenue for the first quarter of 2024, with N242 billion compared to N126 billion recorded in the same period in 2023, indicating an increase of 92 per cent.

This exceptional feat, he stressed, was made possible by blocking revenue leakages, enhancing revenue generations from established sources and identifying and rolling new revenue sources through investment promotion campaigns targeting both domestic and international investments in marine and blue economy.

He informed that the projection was to generate N2trillion annually by 2027. On the ministry’s drive to upgrade infrastructure at our ports, he disclosed that funds were sourced for the modernisation and reconstruction of Tin Can Island, Apapa Port Complex and other ports, a development expected to double the revenue of the country and generate no fewer than 20,000 jobs.

Part of the activities regarding the port modernisation, as it was learnt, is the recent acquisition of additional two units of tugboats to address the rising traffic in the Lekki Deep Sea Port and boost the port authority’s success in the axis. These purchases are different from the first-of-its-kind-in-Africa Azimuth Stern Drive (ASD) 8213 model 80 Ton Bollard Pull Tugboats, acquired last year to enable easy berthing of expansive vessels of 300 metres LOA ( length overall) and above.

Under the leadership of Oyetola, the ministry is promoting the development of Inland dry ports in strategic locations across Nigeria with combined capacity of 165,000 TEUs. The Funtua Dry port, with 5,000 (TEUs), was completed and commissioned for use on 9th May 2024. The Heipang Dry Port at Jos, Plateau, with 20,000 TEUs, has reached 48% completion while construction of those of Erunmu in Ibadan, with 50,000 TEUs, Isiala in Abia ( another 50,000 capacity ) and Jauri in Maiduguri ( 10,000 TEUs), are ongoing.

The rise in number of movement of cargo by barge, from 80,244 TEUs in 2022 to 118,046 TEUs in 2023, is a testament that port-hitherland connectivity has improved significantly under the stewardship of the minister. Again, the number of Nigerian export laden containers has increased considerably, from 156,790 TEUs in 2022 to 226,456 TEUs in 2023.

The number of ship calls equally grew from 1,997 vessels in 2022 to about 2,200 vessels by the end of 2023. Another sub-sectoral arm which is gaining attention of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy is that of fisheries and aquaculture.

It is gladdening to report that a Satellite Based Vessel Monitoring System has been installed through a public private partnership ( PPP) to combat Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated ( IUU) fishing in the country’s territorial waters. The ministry is also collaborating with private investors to reestablish Nigeria’s fish harbours and terminals with an investment to the tune of $70m.

With the support of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), headquartered in the USA and the World Fish Institute, the ministry is putting up a fisheries policy framework designed to signpost the nation to harness export-oriented revenues exceeding $5 billion in trawling and sea farming.

In the last 9 months also, the ministry has deployed new strategies to make port operations more efficient. Part of the action plan in realizing the lofty goal are implementing community automated system, rapid deployment of scanners at all ports, managing bureaucratic bottlenecks by reducing the number of agencies at the seaports to a maximum of seven (7), ensuring the full activation of the National Single Window Initiative for efficient trade processing at ports and increasing cargo examination from 120 to average of 230 boxes daily.

On the safer waterways campaign, the ministry, through one of its agencies, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), is making the dream actionable. The agency is currently carrying out underwater activities to remove 27 previously identified wrecks.

The Managing Director of NIWA, Munirudeen Bola Oyebamiji, revealed that the action was imperative to forestall navigation obstruction with its attendant boat mishaps. He added that the agency planned to extend navigable inland waterways to 5,000km from 3,000km.

The agency also gazetted the Inland Water Transportation Safety Code to guide boat operators, regulate conduct of passengers and provide framework for investment. It has similarly mobilized no fewer than 80 Water Marshals across selected jetties to enforce inland water safety rules. This is just as it emplaced 3 water ambulances for prompt search and rescue operation on the inland waterways.

In equal breath, NIWA has facilitated 3 PC W23 boat with 150 HO each for surveillance activities and 5 PC W23 boats with double 75HP each for enforcement activities.

In addition to the boat acquisition, NIWA has also procured one 62-seater and one 32-seater passenger boats to pilot the modernisation drive.

No doubt, the 9-month stint of Mr Oyetola as marine and blue economy minister has been eventful, as he is laying solid foundation for the country in the sector, it is only hoped that more efforts would be made in enhancing port infrastructure, deploying cutting-edged technologies to drive revenue generation, ensuring security on our nautical space, etc, so as to harness the country’s potential in blue economy for national development

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