By Samson Echenim
Reforms and policies in the maritime sector initiated by the Nigerian government are targeted at encouraging foreign direct investment (FDI) into the sector, says Dakuku Peterside, director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
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Peterside told delegates at the West African Shipping Summit, a side event at the ongoing London International Shipping Week that Nigeria was to set up an International Maritime Arbitration Centre in Lagos to facilitate the timely resolution of disputes within the Gulf of Guinea area and significantly reduce the current trend where maritime players in the region head to London, Dubai or Singapore for arbitration on maritime issues.
Pointing to a much talked about 5-year waiver cessation plan, the NIMASA boss told his audience, which included key players in the global maritime industry that the reforms in the Nigerian maritime sector were opening up vast opportunities in the industry and invited investors to take advantage of them.
He said, “I believe that the Nigerian maritime environment has the largest potential. With a population of about 200 million, which represents over half of the entire population of West Africa, potentials in shipbuilding and ship repair are available.
“In the next five years, vessels built outside Nigeria will not be allowed to participate in Cabotage trade. So, you are all invited to come and invest in the shipbuilding and ship repair industry in Nigeria.”
Peterside also disclosed that the Nigerian Ship registry was being reformed to make it more attractive by having provisions for both national and international players.
“We are also reforming the Nigerian ship registry. The bigger picture is that over time, we are going to have dual ship registry, which will effectively take care of national interest and international interest. It will make it more dynamic, more responsive and it will be one of the most business-friendly registries in the world,” Peterside was quoted in a statement by Isichei Osamgbi, NIMASA’s head of corporate communications.
Ibok Ette-Ibas, a vice admiral and the chief of naval staff, who was represented at the event by Begroy Enyinna Ibe-Enwo, a rear admiral and chief of policy and plans, Nigerian Navy, noted that the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act recently signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari would surely curtail the activities of criminals on Nigerian waters.
“The anti-piracy bill signed by President Buhari will surely curtail the excesses of syndicates who profit from sponsoring criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea,” he said.
Ette-Ibas also declared that Nigerian waters were safe for investment and regional collaboration among navies in the region, saying the Yaoundé 2013 declaration has greatly enhanced patrol of the entire maritime domain in the Gulf of Guinea. He pointed to the steady decline of incidents of piracy in Nigerian waters over the past four years as a confirmation that Nigerian waters are safe for business.
Micheal Wingtage, CEO, African Risk Compliance Limited, who said he was conversant with the Nigerian maritime domain, noted that the challenge of information management concerning security in the Gulf of Guinea was real.
Wingtage said, “Not all of Nigerian waters are unsafe. The challenges are there but in most cases it’s exaggerated, thus, creating a myth of insecurity. So much has been done by Nigerian government and the international community needs to appreciate this.”
Akabogu Law organised the West African Shipping Summit, in partnership with the London International Shipping Week, and it was attended by stakeholders from different countries.