BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
President of the Nigeria Shipowners Association (NISA), Otunba Sola Adewunmi has said that without indigenous shipping capacity, the huge projected economic benefits due to accrue from the exploration of the nation’s blue economy will end up serving only foreign interests; leaving Nigeria a mere onlooker.
According to Adewumi, the only guarantee to achieving a national growth programme is for the federal government to adopt a patriotic, focused and purposeful policy implementation which encapsulates the collective interest of the industry and its stakeholders; in which indigenous shipping capacity will remain the nexus and critical link to which all else revolves.
The NISA leader disclosed that as critical stakeholders and owing to their desire to partner with the federal government in harnessing the blue economy gainfully, the association had requested for a meeting with the Minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Hon. Adegboyega Oyetola, not too long after his appointment, noting however that since their correspondence, the minister has not gotten back to them.
Responding to our reporter’s question on the implication of the apparent, subtle smuggling of Prof Gunter Pauli into the blue economy project implementation process, Adewumi said such a move will amount to a national disservice, since according to him, no sane maritime nation contracts its economic resources to foreigners to run, explaining that doing so will transfer the real economic power to the foreigners; who will reap the real benefits in the form of the Diaspora fund repatriation.
He also denied that NISA was part of the trumpeted, so-called Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy and Prof. Gunter Pauli’s Abuja stakeholders meeting.
He said, “We were not part of the Abuja stakeholders meeting whom Pauli addressed or engaged; l think only our honourable minister of marine and blue economy can explain what happened.
“As far as we are concerned, which is part of your question, we heard it in the news, we read about it in the news…we also heard that the man Pauli has done so much in Brazil, well he may have, but that does not mean that he can transfer such success to Nigeria. Each nation has its peculiarities; you cannot design a programme without taking into account the essential peculiarity in Nigeria.
“ We have a robust pool of marine professionals in this country, our sailors are world class…we have master mariners, marine engineers, captains, and marine professionals and administrators who have also become ship owners, people who have invested in the greatness of this country.
“Bringing Pauli to come and tell us what to do to chart our blue economy implementation framework is like a comedy of error; but let me stop there”, he said guardedly.
Despite the recent fragmentation of the association into smaller units, Adewumi expressed dismay that the clan of local ship owners are not getting the required support from the government, even as he lamented that the federal government has not shown sufficient commitment in providing needed financial support and interventions for the shipping and maritime sector compared to other sectors of the economy like aviation and agriculture.
“Yes, ship owners may be divided and it is regrettable, but government must not take advantage of that to start thinking it could achieve any headway with the blue economy without the full complement of ship owners…we must evolve a practicable scheme to actively participate in the emerging new economic bloc.
“We the ship owners are going to come back together and we will be stronger…we are a family, and we have been talking and meeting. In the interim and for the purpose of kick starting the blue economy project in earnest, the ministry should assemble bonafide leaders of the various groups and engage with us.
“Our input in the blue economy project cannot be overlooked or ignored, we have those who have invested their entire lives promoting the growth of our shipping industry”, he said.
He also explained that whereas NISA has continued to partner the federal government by articulating critical proposals for the development of the industry and the sub sector, the way forward for a purposeful and sustainable development of the marine and blue economy is to have a deliberate policy on shipping capacity development as the fulcrum of local capacity driver; without which all the loud projections currently being advanced by government might as well end up a tragedy of national disgrace.
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