Rivers State has been shown the strategies to fly off with the recently introduced ‘blue economy’ and dig deep into the $1.5trn global value in the emerging sector.
The strategy was revealed by a foremost maritime investor and shipping magnet, Emi Membere-Otaji.
The Kalabari-born medical doctor and mega investor gave the hint at the one-day seminar organised by the Rivers State Command of the Nigerian Immigration Services on Blue Economy.
Speaking on the theme: ‘The Coastal State of Rivers and Benefits of The Blue Economy: Stakeholders Perspective’, the expert said Rivers State and most other states stand a chance of developing a new lucrative sector.
Saying the blue economy had been a part of the state for ages, the former chairman of the board of the West Africa Glass Industry (WAGI) and former commissioner for health in the state, observed that Rivers is not only a coastal state, but that it has many rivers and creeks and thus, stands to benefit from the immense advantages of the Blue Economy.
Saying the state had been involved in the blue economy for ages, Membere-Otaji, whose biography is set to be unveiled, said it is now time to intentionally harness the full values of the Blue Economy.
The MD/CEO, Elshcon Nigeria Limited, said this would need to be achieved with the strong support of the political, public, and private sector leaders, so as to upscale the benefits from the old practice.
The second deputy national president of NACCIMA who is an executive (and council Member) of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping as well as former President of the Port Harcourt Chamber of Commerce, Industry, Mines and Agriculture (PHCCIMA), quoted the World Bank to have defined Blue Economy as “Sustainable use of the ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs while preserving the health of the ocean ecosystem.”
He said the European Commission extends it further and defined it as “All economic activities related to oceans, seas and the coasts.”
The Kalabari chief (meinpregbo or peacemaker of Kalabari) said most others have extended the scope of definition to see Blue Economy as “Economic activities taking place below, on, or adjacent to the ocean, or aquatic systems more generally.”
He quoted sources to show that Nigeria coastal line stretches to about 850kilometers or 420 nautical miles with 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), and about 10,000km of navigable inland waters.
He said: “Nigeria is therefore well positioned in the domain of the Blue Economy. However, in the midst of all opportunities and derivable in the Blue Economy, Nigeria has been going through socio economic challenges.
“While conversations have been ongoing on Blue Economy within the confines of the Federal Ministry of Transportation and its Agencies in recent years in Nigeria, it took the bold move of the present Federal Government to create a Ministry of Maritime and Blue Economy. This though very laudable, will still need inter-ministerial coordination from the Presidency since Blue Economy cuts across many ministries.”
He deposed that Blue Economy is represented by three interconnected pillars of economic (the economic value and usefulness of the marine domain), social equity (employment and poverty reduction, with the attendant curbing of insecurity and youth restiveness) and environmental preservation.
“Globally, Blue Economy is estimated to be worth more than US$1.5trillion dollars per year. Over 90 per cent of global trade is sea-borne, while even in Nigeria increasingly offshore production is accounting for the nation’s crude oil and gas production.”
Showing how Nigeria’s economy is shifting toward a blue economy, Membere-Otaji said since 1956, most commercial crude exploration and production in Nigeria, especially in the old Rivers State, has been from the creeks and rivers, while artisanal fishing had been the source of economic survival of the people, water transportation by ferries, canoes and other types of boats have remained key means of movement of goods and people.
He added that solid minerals mining in the form of sand dredging from the rivers had been supporting some industries (like glass manufacturing), land reclamation and civil construction. “Kainji and other dams in Nigeria had been the source of clean hydropower.”
He said blue economy stands a chance to boost Nigeria’s economic recovery with hope of a spike in the gross domestic product (GDP) which is only 2.5 per cent (Q2-2023).
He went on: “While the country’s economy is not in recession, it is weak and can be described as being in stagflation with the high inflation rate of 25.80 per cent in August 2023.
“In the Blue Economy, the aforementioned economic activities will and should be improved upon for aggressive commercial purposes to diversify and grow the nation’s economy.
“There is therefore, no better time than now for Rivers State and indeed the geographical Niger Delta area to sustainably harness the full commercial benefits of the Blue Economy, to diversify and grow our economy with the attendant social stability, while preserving the biodiversity of our ocean and waterways.