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How Maritime Sector Fared In 2020

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Activities in the Nigerian maritime sector in 2020 were greeted with mixed feelings as the sector witnessed a lot of ups and downs.
In the first quarter of 2020, the sector recorded great improvement across the nation’s seaports as maritime activities boomed. Container traffics across the nation’s six seaports were on the increase due to local and foreign patronage by investors.
The ports within the period recorded high volume in foreign vessels. In the two ports in Rivers State – Onne and Rivers Port Complex, for instance, the volume of container traffic was so high that importers and clearing agents were smiling to the banks. It also generated huge revenue for the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the government.
The outbreak of the Coronavirus pandemic in the first quarter of the year, however, halted the progress being made in the sector. For nearly four months, activities at the ports ceased, while move-ment of vessels and personnel were restricted due to the lockdown imposed by the government as a result of the pandemic.
In a nutshell, the sector was confronted by three major challenges that generally hampered socio-economic development in the country. These are piracy, Corona-virus pandemic and EndSARS protests across the country.
An x-ray of the above challenges would assist in knowing how the maritime industry feared in 2020.
Piracy:
Piracy constituted one of the major setbacks to the maritime industry in 2020. The sector witnessed a decline in operations due to incessant attacks on ship owners by sea robbers. The menace became a daily norm in the indu-stry, scaring away foreign investors and reducing investments in the sector.
Many stakeholders, investors and vessel owners abandoned the nation’s ports and relocated to other African countries for safety of their crews and vessels.
Over 138 crew members, vessel owners and other personnel were kidnapped in the Gulf of Guinea by rampaging pirates in the year under review. Many died in the process while huge ransom were paid to rescue some from the hands of hoodlums.
Here in Rivers State, over 15 persons, including passengers, were hacked down on their way to Bonny, Andoni, Bille and other riverine communities with their valuables worth millions of Naira carted away by sea hoodlums.
Sea robbers within the year under review, also stole over 16 speed boat engines and other personal items, frustrating operators to do business and rendering the sector unproductive.
This situation forced many foreign ship owners to hire at a huge cost the services of the Nigerian Navy to escort their vessels to the points of destination.
Coronavirus:
Coronavirus is a global pandemic that wreaked havoc on the socio-economic activities of the entire globe. Beside causing death, it led to the closure of industries and restriction of goods and services.
The maritime sector had its own share of the adverse effects of the pandemic. Due to lull in maritime activities, many dockworkers lost their jobs, while seafarers, ship owners, crew members and vessels were stranded at sea for months. Some were quarantined and many lost their lives to the pandemic. Vessels laden with cargoes were suspended on high sea while most perishable goods got spoilt.
#EndSARS Protests:
The EndSARS protests that rocked the nation in the month of October affected operations at the nation’s ports. For instance, the headquarters of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) in Lagos was set ablaze by hoodlums that hijacked the End-SARS protests in Lagos. The attack led to the destruction and looting of some of the NPA’s valuables worth millions of Naira. Over N807 million had been earmarked to rehabilitate the port.
Maritime activities were also disrupted in all the six seaports in the country including Apapa and Tin Can ports, Lagos; Onne and Rivers ports in Rivers State; Warri and Calabar ports, thereby depriving the sector a huge billions of naira.
Any Hope For The Sector In 2021?
Notwithstanding the numerous challenges that confronted maritime industry in 2020, there is a ray of hope for the sector in the coming year going by several efforts being made to reposition the sector.
It would be recalled that the Federal Government had, earlier in 2020, approved the construction of Port Har-court to Maiduguri Eastern narrow gauge railway with new branch lines and trans shipment facilities to boost and facilitate maritime operations in the country.
Approval has also been given for the construction of deep seaport at Bonny, Rivers State by the Federal Government at a cost of over $46.924.369 to boost operations in the sector.
Meanwhile, the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) has commenced the trial movement of containers from Onne Port to Onitsha River Port by barges with the aim of decongesting Onne Port and boosting maritime activities in the eastern zone.
In a bid to curb insecurity on the waterways, the Nigerian Navy is planning to acquire two warships to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Guinea in 2021 and make the water more navigable and safer for ship owners.
In recognition of the leadership role being played by Nigeria in tackling insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) through its Secretary General, Kitsch Lum, wrote a commendation letter to the  Federal Government through IMO Director, Maritime Safety Division, Heike Daggim.
There are also good news from the International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) through its African Regional Secretary, Muhammed Safiyanu, that Nigerian seafarers would henceforth be assisted to secure jobs with foreign vessels.
Another window of opportunity for the sector to bounce back was the training of over 500 dockworkers and seafarers by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIM-ASA) across the nation’s ports to boost maritime activities in the country.
The NPA has also earmarked over N807 million for the rehabilitation and repair of the damaged facilities at the NPA headquarters during the EndSARS protests in Lagos.
It is also noteworthy that the West African Containers Terminal (WACT) has acquired two mobile Harbour Cranes at Onne Port to boost marine operations.
There is no gainsaying the fact that all these efforts are geared towards putting the maritime sector on a good footing in the Year 2021, beginning from today. But the success of these efforts in the maritime sector depends on the political will and sincerity of all the players in the sector, especially the government.

 

By: Chinedu Wosu

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Enugu To Resume Coal Mining Operations December

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In a bid to restore its prominence as the leading coal mining state in the former Eastern Region of Nigeria, the Enugu State Government has issued December as deadline for the commencement of mining operations.
The decision came after the meeting of the government representatives and other mining stakeholders in the state, over the weekend.
In a communique issued at the end of a meeting between the state’s Mineral Resources and Environmental Management Committee (MIREMCO) and mineral title holders in the state, the parties resolved to initiate further stakeholders engagement to identify additional challenges in the sector and recommend solutions which would help foster more inclusive and effective mining in the state.
The Chairman of MIREMCO and Special Adviser to the Enugu State Governor on Solid Minerals, Engr. Samuel Okoro, said the communique  emphasised the need to sensitise host communities on the objectives of MIREMCO and how they could assist in ensuring smooth business operations through cooperation between them and the miners, thereby reducing disruptions.
“To uphold transparency and  accountability and also ensure that all mineral title holders in the state comply with the regulatory requirements, it was agreed that the committee would make a demand through the Mining Cadastre Office (MCO) for the directories of all mineral titles in Enugu State.
“In its efforts to eradicate mineral titles in activeness and stimulate economic growth in the sector, the committee reiterated its commitment to ensuring that all the titles became operational before the end of 2024.
“The tilte holders are urged to commence operations promptly, with MIREMCO pledging to providing support and addressing any challenges that may arise to facilitate this process.
“The tilte holders are urged to commence operations promptly, with MIREMCO pledging to providing support and addressing any challenges that may arise to facilitate this process”, Okoro said.
He  thanked the Governor of the state, Dr.  Peter Mbah, and the Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Dele Alake, for giving them the opportunity to make their impact in the sector, promising to ensure full compliance with all relevant regulations and standards.
“We are grateful to the Governor of Enugu State, Dr. Peter Mbah, and the leadership of the Ministry of Solid Minerals Development, headed by the Honourable Minister, Dr. Dele Alake.
“We commend his visionary leadership and dedication to the ministry, and we pledge our commitment to ensuring that his leadership leaves an excellent legacy for the sector”, Okoro said.
He also urged the mineral title holders to do their best and make a difference, stressing that the committee stands ready to collaborate closely with them to achieve maximum results.
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Africa To Empower Marginalised Communities Through Natural Resources

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The Minister of Solid Minerals Development, Dr. Dele Alake, says the African is determined to empower its marginalised communities through its natural resources.
Alake described Africa as endowed with natural resources, capable of driving its sustainable economic growth, particularly with the critical minerals needed for the global energy transition.
He stated this yesterday in Abuja at a press briefing against the backdrop of the forthcoming 2024 African Natural Resources & Energy Investment Summit (AFNIS).
He said equitable distribution of resources and targeted investments in local communities were key to empowering those historically underserved.
Alake said the move would reduce inequality, promote social stability, and ensure inclusive growth across the continent.
“By channeling investments into rural areas and marginalised communities, we can create opportunities for sustainable livelihoods, improve access to essential services, and foster an environment, where every individual has the chance to thrive”, he stated.
According to him, the three-day summit,  being hosted by Nigeria from July 16th would be ending on Thursday, July 18th and is aimed at exploring strategies for utilising fossil fuel revenues to fund Africa’s transition to a greener future.
“AFNIS 2024 is not merely a gathering of minds, but a convergence of visionaries committed to transforming Africa’s natural resource landscape.
“Our discussions and decisions will resonate across the continent, influencing policies, shaping industries, and setting the course for a sustainable future”,  he said.
The Minister said the summit was also aimed at bolstering the continent’s efforts toward achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), while fostering the development of cleaner, more accessible, and reliable energy sources.
He stated that the summit will provide a platform for government officials, the private sector and industry experts from across the continent to chart ways for the sustainable development of its natural resources.
He further said the 2024 theme, “Natural Resources for Economic Development”, underscored the significant role that Africa’s natural resources play in driving economic prosperity.
Alake continued that the economic growth of the region would have multiplier effects, including alleviating poverty and creating job opportunities for its people.
“By fostering economic growth, we can alleviate poverty, create job opportunities and ensure prosperity for small businesses and all .
“The responsible exploitation of our resources will generate revenues that can be reinvested into our economies, enhancing infrastructure, healthcare, and education.
“This cycle of growth will elevate the living standards of our people and position Africa as a formidable player in the global economy”, he said.
The Minister also said the summit would deliberate on leveraging Africa’s natural resources to address crucial issues such as quality education, gender equality, clean water and sanitation.
He added that other issues to tackle also include provision of affordable and clean energy, and proactive climate action.
Alake explained that the summit would be the third edition and would be hosted in partnership with Core International Mining Company.
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SMEs, Major Player In Most Economies – Traditional Ruler 

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The Eze Oha Evo III of Evo Kingdom, HM King Leslie N. Eke, has said Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are major players in most economies, particularly in developing countries.
King Eke, who is the Eze Gbakagbaka of Evo Kingdom, said this while chatting  with newsmen at his palace in Woji in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Eke recalled that SMEs account for the majority of businesses worldwide and are important contributors to job creation and global economic development.
According to him, SMEs represent about 90 percent of businesses and more than 50 percent of employment worldwide, which, he said, should form part of the reasons government at all levels are meant to give it the required attention.
“SMEs contribute up to 40 percent of national income in emerging economies. These numbers are significantly higher when informal SMEs are included”, he said.
He noted that access to finance has been a key constraint to SMEs growth,  hence the need by concerned authorities to up their games.
In his words, “access to finance should rank  the second most cited obstacle facing SMEs growth .
“SMEs are less likely to be able to obtain bank loans than large firms. They rely on internal funds, or cash from friends and family, to launch and initially run their enterprises”, he said.
He also revealed that SMEs growth will go a long way in reviving the ailing economic sector, if all players play in accordance with the rule, doing the needful to support the enterprises.
King Onunwor
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