Nigeria is one of the countries in Africa considered to be sea-blind because of its low level of awareness of the resources, which abound underneath the sea. Also, the country is currently facing challenges of insecurity and bad government policy to tap some ocean resources estimated at $24 trillion.
Other challenges are criminal activities at sea, climate vulnerability, poor infrastructure, environmental degradation, illegal mining, marine pollution and unauthorised fishing.
In Nigeria, there is no fusion of policies that can bridge shipping and fisheries under a maritime economic regime.
While Nigeria’s shipping policy, which is considered obsolete, stands alone, national fisheries policy, superintended by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, operates in isolation.
For instance, Nigeria’s Sea Fisheries Act 1992 does not have provision for Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF). This, to some extent, has hindered blue economy’s development.
Blue economy deals with all economic activities associated with the oceans and seas.
The resources include fish, oil and gas, deep sea mining of refractory clays, iron and heavy minerals like garnet, rutite, spatile, tourmaline, hydrocarbon, gold and zircon
Others are aquaculture, biomedicine, boats and shipbuilding, cables and pipelines, coastal zone management, defence and security, water treatment, marine recreation, ocean energy and minerals, ocean science and observation, port operations, robotics and submarines, shoreline development, telecommunications, marine tourism, very large floating platforms, harbours, ports, and coastal zones, weather and climate.
For the country to create a blue economy regime, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has, therefore, stressed the need to amend its obsolete legislations to conform to the present day ocean sustainability realities.
It also noted that the maritime economic growth should be given proper attention by government to enable Nigeria take advantage of the vast resources in the seabed. Its Director General, Dr Dakuku Peterside, at a media parley in Lagos recently, said that the seas and oceans were central to the concept of blue economy and important tools to achieving sustainable development in Africa.
According to Peterside, the country’s seas and oceans are overlooked when it comes to th issue of sustainable development in Africa.
He noted that the country could benefit from the deep sea wealth by working with the International Seabed Authority (ISBA) in the area of seabed resources exploration. Peterside called for desirable blue sea economy framework, participatory engagement, agenda setting, participatory policy design and multi-sector partnership.
Already, the director general explained that the agency had sought the assistance of ISBA in the area of capacity building to survey deep sea and establish the database of mineral resources available for the benefit of all mankind. According to Peterside, “NIMASA is working with Nigerian Navy to effectively enforce the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other relevant international maritime instruments to which we are a party around our continental shelf.
Also, he said that the Federal Ministry of Transportation was developing a country blue economy policy and strategy, which will incorporate the sustainable development of the country’s deep seabed resources. In addition, he said that the agency had equally recognised the need for increased partnership and collaboration with the judiciary in the actualisation of the country’s collective vision for the sustainability of its shipping and maritime transport sector in a blue economy
Also at the media parley, Sam Omatseye, Chairman, Editorial oard, The Nation, urged maritime journalists to report the potential of the blue economy to enable Nigerians to key into the platform. According to him, studies had revealed that ocean resources could sustain an economy.
Omatseye said that journalists should be able to understand the blue economy and its relevance before they can enlighten the public on its potential. He said: “There are about $24 trillion of wealth in blue economy, which is open for humanity to tap.”
Echoing him, the Managing Director, ThisDay Newspapers, Mr Eniola Bello, also said that blue economy could assist Nigeria to improve on tourism and create jobs within the West Africa region. Bello called for the establishment of good government policies to help the blue economy initiative to flourish.
Peterside said that if government was able to tackle the maritime challenges, the country would be able to sustain the concept of the blue economy. He noted: “We need to put suitable policy in place to enable us achieve all the potential in the blue economy.”
For the blue economy to flourish, the director general said that government must maintain peace and security as well as technological innovations.
Peterside stressed the need to create an institutional framework or structure for coordinating the inter-ministerial commission for seabed resources to achieve the potentials of blue economy.
According to him, protection, conservation, preservation and sustainable use of aquatic biodiversity must be at the centre stage of the blue economy.
Government must invest in infrastructure to boost and block all loopholes in order to exploit blue economy.