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Nigerians cry against foreign dominance of oil and gas sector

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SHIPPING and Oil and Gas Logistics Operators in Nigeria have tasked the Federal Government to check and arrest the age- long foreign dominance of the oil and gas sector, which accounts for about 90 per cent of Nigeria’s foreign exchange earnings but less than 20 per cent average contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and five per cent of total employment.

The practitioners, who rose from a One-Day Sensitisation Seminar on Local Content Development in Shipping, Oil and Gas Logistics Operations in Nigeria, organised in Apapa by the Maritime Reporters’ Association of Nigeria (MARAN), noted that it is aberrant that Nigeria, which is ranked the seventh largest oil producer in the world, is the only oil producing country that is totally excluded from the lucrative trade of lifting the commodity she produces.

“It is lamentable that Nigeria generates an estimated annual cargo throughput of 150 million tonnes with freight earnings in excess of $5 billion in her international trade transactions, while 95 per cent of this income is earned by foreigners and the country contends with job deprivation”, expressed the practitioners.

The stakeholders noted that the same ugly scenario of dominance by foreigners extends to the domestic shipping market, where the estimated $3 billion annual maritime-related spending in the oil and gas production activities are virtually earned by foreigners, a situation of so much activity and so much money, but little impact on the lives of Nigerians, accounting for the high level of frustration and restiveness in the country especially in the Niger Delta region, adding that it is great cause for concern that 15 years after the enactment of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act 2003 as an interventionist maritime-specific local content policy to drive indigenous participation, the goal of the legislation has not been achieved.

A communiqué issued at the end of the event stated as follows:  That the Minister of Transportation must summon the much-needed political will to discourage the flagrant abuse of the waiver clause of the Cabotage Act by foreign shipping interests who indulge in engaging foreign seafarers in the coastal trade;

That there must be renewed impetus at developing world-class shipyards in Nigeria to promote the building and repairs of varied classes of vessels locally, as efficacious means of boosting indigenous capacity and conserving and earning foreign exchange;

That there is pressing need for the regulatory agencies of the Federal Government, including NIMASA, the NCDMB, and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) to improve upon the implementation of local content policies to boost indigenous participation in the maritime and the oil and gas sectors;

That, through an effective synergy between NIMASA, the NCDMB, and the NNPC in the implementation of the Nigerian Oil and Gas Content Development Act 2010 and the Cabotage Act, the maritime industry in Nigeria would be the better for it, noting that these two Acts have presented a clear opportunity for Nigerian entrepreneurs to gradually build their capacities and take over the marine logistics business of the oil and gas industry in Nigeria;

That the non-passage of the Petroleum Industry Governance Bill (PIGB), either as a single entity or in the parts into which the original bill has been balkanised, is discouraging prospective investors and retarding progress in the oil and gas sector in particular, and, by extension, the maritime sector;

That multiplicity of regulatory agencies, with common tendencies of operating in heavy-handed manner, are stifling entrepreneurship in the maritime, and the oil and gas sectors; That a lingering situation in which over 21 statutes are brandished by these numerous regulatory agencies not to expedite operations, but to spell out punishments for operators under opaque circumstances, spells doom for the sectors;

That members of the Nigerian military and paramilitary are advised to work in line with Nigeria’s constitutional provisions and standards set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and other international agencies and institutions that have enacted conventions and regulations on how to conduct smooth commercial shipping and operational logistics, thus ensuring appropriate behaviours to achieve the set goals in these sectors;

That it is very regrettable that Nigeria lacks the requisite vibrant steel industry, bearing in mind that steel is a product in constant and high demand in the operations of the maritime, and the oil and gas sectors;

That the Federal Government is passionately urged to take decisive steps in the area of reviving the steel industry;

That, in order to move the maritime and the oil and gas sectors forward, Nigerians in their mass must rise, speak out and hold public officers accountable in the course of executing their briefs;

That efforts such as the development of the Gelegele Port and a modular crude oil refinery by the Edo State Government in Nigeria’s South-South will promote efficiency in the system by helping to ease the persistent siege on Lagos ports access roads by road haulage vehicles visiting and exiting the terminals of the Lagos Port Complex (LPC) and the Tin-Can Island Port Complex (TCIPC), bonded terminals and the petroleum products tank farms in Apapa and environs;

That the Federal Government has offered great hope, having made effort to enthrone a regime of local content beyond the oil and gas industry to permeate the Nigerian economy to ensure greater local participation and circulation of resources amongst the citizenry;

That impetus has been added to the system with the Presidency’s recent signing of the Executive Order on Local Content;

That it is worthy of commendation that the Nigerian Content Index has now been raised to 25 per cent, and is still growing, buoyed by, among other positive developments, the facts of increasing numbers of vessels being manned by Nigerians, while more designs and fabrications are part of the engineering projects executed in the country with Nigerian-made inputs; and, That in the nearest future,

if Nigerians across board would display unstinting patriotism, Nigeria will be able to boast of high level of indigenous participation across all sectors of her economy, eventually leading to a boom in the Nigerian economy and placing it at par with other developed economies; and That the existing synergy between the shipping and the oil and gas sectors is commendable and must be sustained, more so that they share common business interests and common challenges.

Earlier, the debilitating effects of Nigeria’s erratic public power supply on the maritime, and the oil and gas sectors, as on other sectors of the nation, were noted, with the Federal Government urged to take urgent steps to resolve the nagging issue that has lingered as a huge drawback to national progress.

The Chairman of the event who is also Chairman of the Ports Consultative Forum (PCC), Otunmba Kunle Folarin specifically urged the maritime reporters to adhere strictly to the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution mandating the Press to hold public officers accountable for their actions and inaction, as the case may be.

Folarin noted that the complexities associated with the operations and logistics in the shipping, oil and gas sectors made sectors very problematic.

In her submission, the representative of the Director General of NIMASA, Mrs. Anna Akpan urged Nigeria to assume control of operations in these critical sectors to enable the country reap the immense gains offered by these sectors.

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