Economists are united in the view that a country’s capacity to create wealth is most facilitated by favourable foreign/trade and supportive infrastructure. The critical determinant of trade development is the transportation cost component, which efficiency is often determined by the tight type technology.
That not withstanding, a number of people have continued to under value the importance of maritime transport in the overall development of Africa.
Ecomarine is an African business concept in which African goods and services destined for Africans, move on African-owned ships and trucks, and are stored in African-owned warehouses not forgetting the development of African skills in marine services and technology. Indeed, the conspicuous absence of dedicated coastal shipping services in the region, and the demise of the erstwhile National Shipping Lines, have compounded familiar shortcomings of the other modes of transportation thus, prompting the need for the creation of Ecomarine.
It was difficult to comprehend how and why, a region with a homogenous maritime coastline, stretching over 2,000 nautical miles, and covering 27 different countries, could afford to remain without a dedicated coastal shipping service.
The domination of the regional shipping industry by foreign multinational conglomerates, whose legitimate business practices greatly undermine the interest of the inhabitants of the region further exacerbated the situation.
The cost of moving a container from one part of the region to another is enormous. It is costly as if moving a container from anywhere in Europe to the region. Records also show that the cost of transportation on consumer goods in the region stands at approximately 14 per cent as against the average of 4-6 per cent in all other regions of the world.
Ecomarine which, to be precise, represents a private sector response to the situation, is conceived as an integrated maritime-based solution, designed to provide coastal cargo and passenger shipping services, the construction of load centers and inland dry port, coastal shipping feeder services as well as related linkage infrastructures and services.
As a way of showing commitment to partnership, the United States Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) had signed a grant agreement of about US $400,000 to fund engineering studies for the proposed automated trans-shipment platform.
Ecomarine’s mission, is to make maritime transport the natural choice in the movement of goods and travelers in the region, by proving customer-focused, competitive world class coastal shipping services.
The rationale behind the Ecomarine concept stretches beyond the direct benefits it stand to procure to the wide spectrum of immediate stakeholders, to include the positive impact on the socio-political and economic landscape of the entire region.
As a force in the promotion of intra-regional trade, the free movement of goods and persons, tourism, cultural exchanges and the more effective, interest-related bonding of regional citizens, Ecomarine stands out in a class of its own, as the vector of a much-desired integration of the sub region.
Indeed, there are lots of benefits that are derivable in the Ecomarine business, which could be summed up in terms of economies of scale, employment, wealth creation, poverty alleviation, industrial development and economic welfare among others.
Even with the promulgation of the Cabotage Act that gives Nigerians more courage to undertake full maritime business, Ecomarine is designed to join forces in conscientising regional operators as well as spour them to actions for overall development.
Besides the pride of place in pioneering a regional shipping venture, investors will benefit from the cross-boarder insurance cover being provided to Ecomarine by Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency of the World Bank Group.
Business in general terms will benefit from increased market access, increased production and consequently witness increased profits. Government, on their parts, will enjoy greater political stability resulting from reduced poverty, and greater general welfare for the populace.
Foreign trade remains an important economic activity in the region. Available statistics show that trans-shipment cargo that flows to West Africa exceeds 633,000 Twenty foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) annually, while estimated passengers is put at only 200,000, and this can be explained by the fact that sea traveling is highly underdeveloped in the region.
The most heavily used routes in the region are accessible by sea and maritime transport, and this remains relatively cheaper and safer than all other modes. Therefore, the shortcomings of the other modes of transport in the region present an enormous potential from which Ecomarine can tap.
There might be competition from the other modes of transport, albeit their various limitations. Traveling by air is expensive if not prohibitive and connectively remains a major handicap. The decried excessive check points, administrative bottlenecks and other hazards constitute a serious limitation to traveling by road, while poor infrastructure, outdated rolling stock and the absence of rail links make it practically impossible to travel by train from one country to the other, in the region. The profitability and the viability of Ecomarine enjoy the support of some multi-lateral institutions like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) with secretariat in Abuja.
ECOWAS did not only midwife the delivery of the Ecomarine baby, but has since birth acted as facilitator in every possible way and that facilitated the decision of Heads of States and Governments of the Community to grant Ecomarine “National Carrier Status” in all member countries.
Ecomarine also enjoys the patronage of the foremost marine organisations of the region, the Maritime Organisation of West Africa and Central Africa (MOWCA) which has adopted a policy framework for a regional maritime Cabotage law, a regional coast guard network and a regional maritime fund.
The Port Management Association of West and Central Africa (PMAWCA) has also thrown its weight behind the priority berthing rights and other concessions to regional coastal shipping companies like Ecomarine.
There may be weaknesses and threats to Ecomarine existence and survival, ranging from the current domination of the industry by foreign liners and investors to political instability and competition from new entrants, but these can be mitigated through formation of strategic alliance, and adoption of competitive world class shiping standards to compete on equal terms.
What is on ground now with respect to operations of Ecomarine is not enough, and there is need for a more serious efforts, having known its benefits.
The region as at now is not adequately served by sea transport, and the growth rate potential for intra-regional and trans-shipment cargo is very high.
That is why the formation of New Partnership for African Devenlopment (NEPAD) initiative is timely, and represent tremendous opportunities for the growth of Ecomarine.
Ecomarine is the concrete example of what NEPAD is all about, because it not only captures in essence the principles and mechanisms advocated in NEPAD plan, but it also produces the desired result.
Being positioned to dominate the regional maritime industry, and with profitable business with strong cash flow, no effort should be spared to develop the Ecomarine project.
Customs Intercepts N6, 974m Worth PMS
Barely two weeks after seizing a tank-full equivalent of Premium Motor Spirit (PMS), known locally as petrol, the Seme Command of the Nigeria Customs Service has intercepted 1005 jerry cans of the same product.
The product, amounting to 3000 litres, is with Duty Paid Value (DPV) worth of N6,974,750.00.
A statement signed by the Command’s Spokesman, DSC Hussaini Abdullahi, and made available to our correspondent in Lagos at the weekend, said the seizure was made during a routine check of the adjoining creeks, beaches, and flash points.
The statement quoted the Customs Area Controller, Comptroller Bello Mohammed Jibo, as saying that “as long as unrepentant and undesirable elements engage in acts of economic sabotage and smuggling, so shall officers and men remain a step ahead to counter their illicit trades”.
The statement further reads: “In continuation of our efforts to suppress smuggling of petroleum products within the nooks and crannies of the command, officers and men of the Seme Area Command on a routine patrol along the creeks within Seme and Badagry intercepted another large quantity of petroleum products in sacks.
“After successful evacuation of the said item to the command’s premises where examination was conducted, one thousand and five (1005)x 30 litres of jerry cans of petroleum products each, equivalent to thirty thousand, one hundred and fifty (30,150) litres were discovered. The Duty Paid Value (DPV) is Six million, nine hundred and seventy four thousand, seven hundred and fifty naira (N6,974,750.00), only”.
While showcasing the seized products, Jibo commended the doggedness, patriotism, dedication and high level of professionalism exhibited by his men, noting that the new Land Cruiser patrol vehicles (Buffalo) recently donated to commands by the Management of the NCS has aided the operation of the command, as the vehicles enhance access to a wider circle.
By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
NASS, MDAs’ Non-Remittance Of Taxes Cost FIRS N5.8bn …NCAA Tops Defaulters With N2,984bn
Non-remittance of tax deductions by the National Assembly, comprising the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as Federal Ministries, Departments, and Agencies has resulted in a loss of tax revenue amounting to N5.8 billion by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) in 2019.
Disclosing this in its 2019 Annual Report on non-compliance, internal control, and weakness issues in MDAs of the Federal Government of Nigeria, the Office of the Auditor General of the Federation said it is for the year ended December 31, 2019.
The MDAs, according to the Report, are the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology, New Bussa; Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria; Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority; Nigerian Communications Satellite Limited; Hussaini Adamu Federal Polytechnic, Jigawa State; Federal Medical Centre, Keffi, Nasarawa State; Department of Petroleum Resources; National Assembly Service Commission; and Nigerian Correctional Services.
It stated that between 2018 and 2019, the MDAs failed to either remit one per cent stamp duty, value added tax, withholding tax or Pay As You Earn tax deducted from awarded contracts, thereby contravening sections of the Financial Regulations and Treasury Circular issued on December 29, 2015.
The Report further stated that Paragraph 234(I) of the Financial Regulations states that “it is mandatory for accounting officers to ensure full compliance with the dual roles of making provision for the Value Added Tax and withholding tax due on supply and services contract and actual remittance of same”.
Specifically, it quoted Paragraph 235, saying, “Deduction of VAT, WHT, and PAYE shall be remitted to Federal Inland Revenue Service at the same time the payee who is the subject of deduction is paid”.
It continued that the Treasury circular Ref No. TRY/A12&B12/2015 and OAGF/CAD/VOL.II/390, dated December 29, 2015, states that “1% Stamp Duty chargeable on contract awards and the remittance be made to the relevant tax authority (Federal Inland Revenue Service)”.
The Report also stated: “The audit observed that the sum of N5,828,621,715.06 was the amount of taxes not remitted by 12 Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
“The Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) has the highest amount of N2,984,887,250.00, while Federal College of Freshwater Fisheries Technology, New Bussa has the least amount of N1,021,011.13”.
NCS, Apapa Records N870,39bn Revenue Boost
The Apapa Command of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) recorded an impressive performance in its revenue generation and anti-smuggling campaign in 2021.
Disclosing this recently during a review of its activities in 2021, the Area Controller of the command, Comptroller Yusuf Malanta, said the sum of N870.38 billion of the N2.24 trillion announced recently by the Service was collected in Apapa Command in 2021.
Giving an insight into the command’s revenue profile, Malanta told newsmen that the N870.38 billion collected by the command was 68 percent more than what was collected in 2020 which was N518.4 billion.
He stayed that the Command recorded 103 seizures worth N31 billion in 2021.
Malanta identified the seizures as 46.55kg of cocaine, which was concealed on board MV Karteria and MV Chayanee Naree laden with raw sugar; containers of foreign parboiled rice, tomato paste, secondhand clothes, unregistered pharmaceuticals such as captagon pills, tramadol, codeine syrup, etc.
“These were seizures made in accordance with the provisions of sections 46, 47, and 161 of the Customs and Excise Management Act (CEMA) CAP C45 LFN 2004. These seizures are condemned by a competent court of law and the suspects are still undergoing investigation and interrogation”, the Customs boss said.
He continued that 5.38 metric tons of non-oil commodities were exported through the command as against 1.3 million metric tons in 2020.
According to him, the Free on Board (FOB) value for the exported items rose from $340 million (N140 billion) in 2020 to $641 million (N264 billion) last year.
By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos
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