With a coastline of 852 kilometres bordering the Atlantic Ocean in the Gulf of Guinea and a maritime area of 46,000 km2, Nigeria has significant and diverse marine resources.
Its various national economic activities derive from ocean resources, however it has become increasingly clear that the potentials of Nigeria’s blue economy is far from being fully harnessed and that a coordinated policy framework is required to address this emergent reality.
The maritime sector plays an important role in the exploitation, distribution and export of Nigeria’s ocean resources. With a total annual freight cost estimated at between $5 billion and $6 billion annually, according to the Ministry of Transport, the maritime component of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry is reportedly worth an estimated $8 billion, further reflecting the prominence of the sector to the country’s overall economy.
The importance of maritime transport to the Nigerian economy is also recognised in seaborne transportation, oceanic extractive resource exploitation, and export processing zones.
Thus, it has become imperative for government to develop national policy framework to drive blue economy in Nigeria since this is another great prospect to return the country to the corridor of industrialisation and sustainable development and economic prosperity.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), has committed to development of blue economy in the country. The agency is working hard to ensure the acualisation of the blue economy potential.
Economically, there are lots of opportunities any maritime nation can drive from blue economy because it deals with the totality of all economic activity associated with the oceans, seas, harbors, ports, and coastal zones.
Blue economy also includes, aquaculture, biomedicine, boats and shipbuilding and repair yards, cables and pipelines, coastal zone management, defense and security, desalination and 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, weather and climate. The concept also comprises of training of seafarers, maritime education and training, deep-sea development, wreck removal and recycling and marine insurance. Undoubtedly, blue economy offers great opportunities for foreign exchange earnings.
Apart from the above economy benefits mentioned, there are many natural resources just lying idle at the seabeds unharnessed despite Nigeria being a member of the International Seabed Authority. The Seabed beyond 200 nautical miles or the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of any country is governed by the Law of the Sea, and the International Seabed Association administers and controls the resources found on the surface and under the seabed beyond national jurisdictions.
The mineral resources that have been discovered in the seabed include Polymetallic Manganese Nodules, Polymetallic Sulphide, and Ferromanganese Crusts.
Polymetallic Manganese Nodules is a collection of iron manganese resulting from all activities from the land found in the sea and from some minerals from rocks. They come together and form the nodules on the seabed. Manganese is used in making insulators, medicine, fertilizers etc. It also contains iron, zinc and sulphide.
The Polymetallic Sulphide is found in the Mid Oceanic Ridges. Almost all oceans have the Mid Oceanic Ridges and there is one near Nigeria, the South Atlantic Mid Oceanic Ridge. It has a lot of Sulphides, which are very rich in gold, silver and diamonds. They are high quality metals while the Ferromanganese Crusts are highly mineralized crusts. Experts classify all these resources under the seabed as blue economy.
Looking at how low oil prices are fluctuating in recent times coupled with the discovery of alternative sources of energy; experts opined that the best way to diversify the economy of a country like Nigeria that largely depends on hydrocarbon resources for its prosperity is through development of blue sea economy due to its significant potential to create jobs and improve livelihoods and foreign exchange generation.
The Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who was represented by the Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Bashir Yusuf Jamoh, at a courtesy visit by the Shipping Correspondents Association of Nigeria (SCAN), said that the agency remains committed to growing the ideals of the blue economy by bringing to the fore adequate knowledge of the sector in line with the capacity building drive of the Agency.
According to him, there are lots of things Nigeria can gain at the sea, which are not utilising appropriately, saying this is where the Agency’s passion is going now, which is where every country is going especially the African countries and Nigeria is not left behind because we are not lagging.
He added: “We want to get rid of this mono-economy. Everyday, we talk about issue of crude oil and in the next 29 years, crude oil may not have a good place in our economy. Most of the countries patronising our crude oil today, they are working day and night to ensure they get alternative source of energy rather than concentrating on our crude oil.
“In so doing, if we do not place emphasis on other areas that concerns economy, we would be lagging behind. For instance, you look at fishing industry, the fishing industry in Canada is almost and industry that can be able to feed certain countries, from there; they can get their own internal consumption. From fishing they can get the one for export and do so many things with that. The value chain from fishing alone in Canada goes a long way that we sit down and harness especially when we look at the population of this country.”
Apart from that, he said there are so many things in blue economy Nigeria as a country has to look into. Nigeria has to look at the environment to ensure “we maintain the environment in a very good way so that inhabitants can be able to survive freely, then we will now exploiting the benefit of such things in on our own.”
He explained: “we have so many things to do in that area like ship building, ship repair so if we do those ones, they are under the blue economy and there are other services like chandelling, protective agencies and there are so many things to do that can give our younger generation opportunities to get jobs. Those are the areas we at NIMASA trying to sell our ideas to the government.”