AFRICAN STATES MUST SPEAK WITH ONE VOICE OVER MARITIME SECTOR CHALLENGES, SAYS VP OSINBAJO
Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo has charged all African maritime administrators and regulators to speak with one voice at the global level as the continent addresses challenges facing the maritime space, noting that this will require cooperation amongst States and agencies and with other segments of society including the private sector.
The Vice President, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari, said this today at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja where he declared the 3rd Annual Conference of the Association of African Maritime Administrations open, after which he unveiled the logo for the new NIMASA brand.
Below is the speech delivered by His Excellency, Vice President Prof. Yemi Osinbajo SAN, today at the opening ceremony of the 3rd Annual Conference of the Association of African Maritime Administrations holding at the Transcorp Hilton, Abuja and hosted by DG, of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside. Also in attendance at the occasion were the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, Senator Bala Na’Allah who represented the Senate President and the Ministers of Transportation and Niger Delta, Chibuike Amaechi and Uguru Usani Uguru respectively. Delegates from Maritime Administrations from 35 countries and officials from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) were also at the ceremony.
I am representing here the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, who sends his very warm wishes and also his thanks for all of the support that various African countries have given Nigeria. And also, to say that warm welcome into Abuja and wish you enjoy your stay here. He also wishes you very fruitful deliberations
Let me begin this speech by thanking you for the kind invitation to attend this very important meeting of your Association.
I am especially pleased that we are able to host this meeting here, especially when one recalls that the 2014 session of this meeting could not be held in West Africa on account of the outbreak of the Ebola disease.
But perhaps even more fulfilling is the pride that we must all take in the establishment, and nurturing of this unique Association of Maritime Administrations in Africa.
It is an exceptional demonstration of the important collaborations that the founding fathers of the OAU and then the AU had in mind when they agreed to bind their nations to the grand common purposes set out in the inspired charters of the Union.
It is clear that this great and inspirational antecedents were not lost on the founding fathers of your association when in 2013 at the 2nd meeting of The Heads of Africa Maritime Administrations in Sandton, South Africa, the meeting noted that it was, and I quote,
“Inspired by the noble objectives which guided the founding fathers of our Continental Organisation in their efforts to promote unity, solidarity, cohesion, and cooperation among the people of Africa”;
Following therefrom, your determination and I quote again “to take up the multifaceted challenges that confront the maritime sector in Africa and establish the necessary conditions which can enable the continent to play its rightful role in the development of the African maritime sector” stands on a very firm foundation.
For anyone following developments in the African maritime sector, there can be no question that more than ever before our countries are beginning to accord the sector the seminal importance it deserves.
Just a few months ago, the African Union Heads of State and Government agreed to adopt the African Charter on Maritime Security, Safety and Development as a means of making our maritime resources a key driver of continental economic development.
Several other initiatives demonstrate the sectors importance in food and environmental stability. Clearly the enormous untapped potential for the making of strong self-reliant, African economies lies embedded in the blue economy. It is the task of you the seasoned leaders of the sector to guide us on this crucial voyage. The challenges are many, but not insurmountable.
As things stand, Africa’s fishing grounds are being pillaged, its waters are being polluted and piracy is heightening maritime insecurity and causing increases in the cost of insurance and freight. At the same time, the regulatory and legal frameworks to properly manage maritime resources and overcome these challenges are still inadequate. Similarly, we are yet to fully develop the human and institutional capacities required to respond appropriately to these challenges.
Many difficulties but incredible opportunities. The good news is that we are on the right path. Collaboration and synergies. Our countries have to continue to develop the maritime sector beginning from national level to the sub-regional and regional levels.
Here in Nigeria, we have taken steps to tackle some of the issues peculiar to us while still requiring regional and sub-regional collaboration. We have stepped up engagement to address and resolve the misunderstandings and contentious issues in our Niger Delta which of course is part and parcel of the Gulf of Guinea.
We recently approved a new maritime security architecture and infrastructure to be jointly coordinated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the Ministry of Transportation and the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA).
We are giving required support to the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies so that they can work with others within our sub-region to effectively police our waterways for trade to flourish.
These arrangements will also contribute to resolving and eliminating piracy and sea robbery within our maritime domain. The results are encouraging and piracy has dropped significantly in the past six months.
In the same vein, we are making substantial investments to improve human capacity by taking advantage of international training and internship opportunities in the shipping and maritime industry. We have also paid significant attention to making it easier to do business and one of our immediate priorities in this regard is the entry and exit of goods, especially in our seaports. The measures that we are putting in place are designed to improve the efficiency of our ports and to enable quick turnaround time of vessels. Technology is also being deployed to make our port operations more transparent and effective in support of economic growth.
NIMASA, which is the regulatory agency of shipping and maritime activities in Nigeria is being reformed so that it can play its expected role as a facilitator of economic prosperity. Today, in the course of this opening ceremony, we will be unveiling the new NIMASA brand which will serve as a signpost and symbol of our determination to reposition this vital agency.
As African maritime administrators and regulators, it is my respectful view that you must ensure a coherent and collaborative continental response to the challenges facing our maritime space. This will require cooperation amongst our States and agencies and with other segments of society including the private sector. It will also entail focusing on human capacity development including strengthening the coast guard function to police our waterways. It means that governance issues and appropriate legal and regulatory frameworks must be put on the front burner alongside timely exchange of information.
In addition, issues of maritime security and safety must continue to receive priority attention as we strive to make Africa a valued player in the international maritime community. In this vein, Nigeria will promote and support effective African participation in the Council of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). However, this can only yield desired results when we have all African states speaking with one voice at the global level for the enduring interest of Africa.
Finally, in the next two days of this conference, I invite you to feel at home and to take the opportunity of your stay in Abuja, which we consider as home for all Africans, to savour the sights, sounds, and culinary delights of Nigeria.
Let me congratulate the able and dynamic Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, for the great effort deployed to host this conference, and of course the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Dr. Chibuike Amaechi.
As I unveil the new NIMASA brand today, let it signify our optimism and desire for closer synergy and collaboration by maritime stakeholders on the continent of Africa.
It is therefore my special pleasure to declare this Conference open.
I wish you productive and fruitful deliberations.