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How Nigeria sits on wealth bigger than oil without knowing it – Dakuku Peterside

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Nigeria is said to be sitting on aquatic wealth but is borrowing and facing economic depression. Experts said on Friday that Nigeria can make from maritime or blue economy far more than it makes from hydrocarbon (oil) economy.

Immediate past Director-General (DG) of the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Rivers-born Dakuku Peterside, who spoke at a Rotary International lecture in Port Harcourt, Friday, May 21, 2021, named five major areas that form the blank of the ‘blue economy’ that can rescue Nigeria from a falling and failing economy.

This is as the national president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Customs Agents (ANLCA), Tony Iju Nwabunike, said in Lagos that the Nigerian maritime industry is capable of funding the 2021 fiscal budget if harnessed adequately.

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Peterside, onetime commissioner for works in Rivers State under Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, said he did not believe Nigeria would fall or stagnate but would rise, said the blue economy which his team designed when he was DG of NIMASA was capable of lifting Nigeria again. He seemed to be supported in faraway Lagos where the ANLCA president told the nation that the maritime sector alone could hand the annual budget to Nigeria.

Peterside spoke on; “Nigeria Economy: Disruptions and Opportunities; Blue Economy to the Rescue?” He however said humans were always opposed to change, except it was forced on them, except there is a push. He adopted the definitions of a blue economy from both the European Union and the World Bank, all talking about businesses based or linked to the ocean but harnessed in a sustainable and inclusive manner.

Reeling out the areas where a blue economy could rescue Nigeria, the doctorate degree holder in Management mentioned shipping, fishing, bunkering, alternative energy, aqua tourism, and deep-sea mining.

Throwing some light on shipping, he said 80 per cent of international trade is done by shipping to create 70 per cent of value. “Thus, more vessels will be needed, more seafarers, bigger ports would be needed because vessels would have to be three times bigger than the size we have today. Ship repair will be a new sector, etc.”

He said bunkering services (supplying fuel for use by ships, and includes the shipboard logistics of loading fuel and distributing it among available bunker tanks) would be in huge demand. He said when ships cannot move away from your shores, huge bunkering services would be needed.

He said marine transportation will be the bedrock of the blue economy, referring to Nigeria’s huge inland waterways of over 45,000 km. This would create a huge size of seafarers all from the under 35. He said Nigeria is the fifth-largest in the world in terms of the under 35 population. They would be needed in the shipping and general maritime sector.

The Opobo-born expert said fishery is waiting to be exploited, saying the entire commercial fishing sub-sector is lying idle and the little being done is by Asians. He said 60 per cent pf of protein is sourced from fish stock and that it is a major source of food. “Nigeria can’t produce enough, thus spending $12Bn to import about 1.6 metric tons of fish per year. Other researchers said Nigeria needs 3.2 million metric tons but produces a mere 1.2 MMT, leaving a gap of 2.2mmt.

Peterside said Nigeria’s participation in industrial fishing is less than 0.02 per cent.

“Nigerians do well in aquaculture and this grows at 12 per cent, but Nigeria can do better. Artisanal fishing is very low; this is fishing done by households with no technology, and at very low scales.

The former DG hinted that aqua tourism is a huge sector with $8.8bn to make with $4.4bn of it possible from coastal areas. “Nigeria earns less than 0.01 per cent from this. If the government intervenes especially in security, Nigeria can capture this sector and create huge wealth.” This could be where the Deep Blue Project which involves the military and state governments of the eight littoral states may come in. NIMASA is currently touring the coastal states to get their buy-in to the project.

He said wind is a big source of alternative energy and that deep-sea mining is still totally untapped whereas a lot of minerals such as cobalt and copper could be identified and mined through active collaboration. “Nobody seems to be talking about this area. If we think and identify and act, Nigeria would have no business with poverty”.

Talking about the need for embracing change, Peterside said there is a need to chart the uncharted territory. “This happens when events force humans to look outside the box. Few incidents have forced a change in the world in recent times.“

He mentioned them as the September 14, 2011 bombing in the US; the 2008 global meltdown, and Covid-19. He of all these, Covid-19 caused the most significant global impact such as the crash of economies. He said it has forced everyone to think home or of self-survival and created new realities.

Some of such new realities for Nigeria he mentioned include realizing that the oil economy is gone because oil came to an 18-year low; that education the way it is delivered has become old fashioned. He warned that the world would leave Nigeria behind if the country does not innovate.

He painted the picture of what he called a world of ‘Winners and Losers’. “The world is set to separate winners from losers. Losers will be those who don’t want to change. Many skills will no longer be marketable, no longer be needed. Who needs the services of a typist anymore?

Information and computer technology (ICT) has arrived. It is the new gold, the new diamond. The richest companies in the world are in ICT. Technology fetches far more than minerals.”

He said logistics is a key component but this would be technology-driven. “This is needed more and more to move things around, to move goods from producers to consumers.

“Services would be critical in a blue economy to activate wealth. This is about businesses in the ocean, focused on sustainability and inclusiveness. This perhaps is Nigeria’s new area of advantage. The country has about 853km of coastline and 45,000 km of the water body. Blue economy seeks to integrate all the sub-sectors of the businesses in the ocean. These already exist at sea but there should be best ways to exploit them, harness them and apply technology. Nigeria will thus surge.”

The session was moderated by Ibim Semenitari, former commissioner of information in Rivers State and a Rotarian.