Akutah Laments Underreported Maritime Actual Contribution To GDP
…Says Implementation of CTN Overdue
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Executive Secretary/CEO of Nigeria Shippers’ Council, Barr Pius Akutah has expressed concern over the failure of infrastrure and perceived inability of the relevant authorities to provide the required data and statistics for the proper documentation of the actual contribution of the maritime sector to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP).
This is even as the new Council’s helmsman disclosed that the federal government is upbeat about commencing in earnest the implementation of the proposed Cargo Tracking Note (CTN), noting that is commencement is long overdue.
Akutah who was speaking when he received the leadership and some members of the League of Maritime Editors (LOME) in his office Monday, said that the council under his watch will do everything it takes to partner with other critical departments of government to reduce cargo clearance time at the ports from 48hours to 24 hours; and to strive to build on the structures he inherited from his predecessors to leave positive footprint like they did.
Expressing pride in the achievements inherited left behind by his predecessors, Akutah vowed to uphold the performance bond he signed with the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Gboyega Oyetola CON, even as he hinted of the urgent need to push ahead with review of the NSC Act of 2004, noting that a review have become imperative to reflect current realities.
He explained that the Council is passionate in aligning with President Bola Tinubu administration’s vision for the optimal growth of the marine and blue economy.
“Our president, from his campaign promises and as soon as he came into office has shown that he is determined to diversify the economy of this country. And that is why he brought this ministry of marine economy to now begin to look at our marine resources and see how we can tap into them as another line of foreign exchange earnings for this country.
“If you look at Sardine or Geisha, you will see written on it, product of Morocco, that is, from Morocco. And they do not have the enormous marine resources that we have in this country. But they are using that as a major income earner for their country, and they are using the resources to develop their country.
“So the President Tinubu is determined to look at the marine sector as one sector that will add to our GDP. Recently our minister of marine and blue economy in his address at the National Assembly during the defense of our budget actually mentioned 20% contribution to GDP. And that is what all of us in this sector, heads of agencies and all of us are working towards to achieve.
“In this sector, the volume of trade that comes into Nigeria, we all know that what is being reported now is grossly below what actually is. And this is because the infrastructures that are needed to monitor trade flows in this country are not actually there. And if we set up those infrastructures, I know that even our funding will improve, what comes to Nigeria by way of revenue from this sector will improve, not to talk about the natural resources that we are looking at exploring.”
The NSC boss also highlighted fresh dimension the federal government is exploring to kick start the protracted implementation of the CTN.
“For instance, in the Shippers Council today, we have demanded to establish the cargo tracking note. This is a platform that will monitor trade and give us the correct volume of trade that is coming into this country. And as we look at the statistics, we will also know about the revenue that is being generated by tracking cargoes coming into this country. It is not only desirable, it is needed, it is long overdue.
“Even smaller countries surrounding us have already established their cargo tracking note and they are using it. This is not just beneficial to us in terms of revenue generation, but it’s also beneficial to us in terms of monitoring what comes into our shores to be able to enhance the security of our country. Because if we know the cargoes that are coming to our country, then we are in a better position to command and then to secure what comes in.
“What is not desirable for us will not be able to come into our port. So this (CTN) is desirable, and more than desirable, it is needed. And we need to all put our hands forward to ensure that this happens”, he stressed.
Further highlighting the prospects of the CTN, Akutah said, “The mandate that we have as a council responsible for one of these priority areas of Mr. President is to ensure that we deliver this (CTN) in the third quarter of next year. And we need your support in this area to push us to be able to achieve that.
“We have other areas that we intend to from the priority area that we have. We have other aspects of development that we are developing like the inland dry port (IDP), we have done so much in that area. We have the mandates of Mr. President to ensure that we deliver on that, and all of these will improve significantly, going forward to see how we can facilitate trade.
“Even taking advantage of the African free Continental Trade Agreement (AfCTA), we need to take advantage of that. You remember, we were almost the last country to sign that. So many things had happened even before we signed, so we need to encourage our people to understand that there are opportunities under that agreement in terms of trade and transportation.
“We need to quickly do what we can to achieve all of that, improve understanding of our people, update the knowledge of our people in terms of trade participation within the continent and even outside the continent. That is what will guarantee the level of revenue.”
The obviously fast learning Council boss spoke on the prospect of the review of the NSC Act, and the possibilities the review will create and their positive impact on the growth of the sector.
“For me, one of the quick wins that I intend to achieve as quickly as possible…is the Council Act 2004. That Act needs to be amended and as I speak to you, we have it before the National Assembly. The Speaker and the Chairman of our House Committee on Shipping, as well as the Senate Committee Chairman, they’re all in agreement that this Act needs to be passed as quickly as possible.
“We have the support of the National Assembly and we believe that the way and manner that they are taking this act, we believe that not later than the second quarter of next year, we should have that act in place, but much, much earlier is what we are targeting. We believe that it will come up as quickly as possible.
“This Act will help us not only to fully establish statutorily that we are the port economic regulator, it will give us the enabling environment to work, within the ambit of the law. That act will incorporate the regulations of 2015 and the order of the President establishing the Council as a port regulator. So as soon as you have the act in place, we will see that the revenue base of this agency will improve. Otherwise, at the moment, what we take as our revenue base is 2% levy development, which is not adequate for us to be able to achieve the mandate for which we are set to achieve. But with the support of the ministry, the support of the National assembly, we will get there.”
On reducing the turnaround time in port operation, Akutah outlined a fresh perspective and strategy to achieve greater efficiency.
“We need to also promote port efficiency and operations around the port, because we also have a role to play here. We want to promote at least about 24 hours of cargo clearance, rather than 48 hours, so that gradually we can move into international standard time frame. And we want to also promote the implementation of the electronic traffic management system in the port, which is a discourse that is ongoing because of what you know about the great law, the port and all of that. “Aside of this, there are many other things that we need to do in the coming year so that we don’t lag behind. From the beginning of next year, after we defend our budget, I believe that our activities will improve more than what has it been in the last seven weeks.”
He commended maritime journalist for their efforts in critically projecting the industry, even as he urged the League and its members to continue to support developmental issues in an up-building manner.
“When you lend your voice to a project, people will know that this is happening and the support can come from anywhere. We don’t want to just have projects named projects. We want to actually achieve results when we go into this.”
Speaking earlier, League President, Chief Timothy Okorocha thanked the NSC boss for making out time to meet with maritime editors and also congratulated him on his appointment; even as he assured his host that his group’s will give him maximum support to achieve his mandate through developmental journalism.
“On behalf of the executive, I congratulate you once more on your appointment. We want to wish you well and to say we are ready to partner with you. You need all the encouragement, you need all the support for you to make a headwind and to make success of your appointment.”