By Ogenyl Ogenyi,Uyo
Determined to look beyond the over dependence on oil and gas mono economy, stakeholders in maritime sector and leaders of Coalition of SouthSouth Chambers of Commerce, Industry, Mines & Agriculture (COSSCCIMA yesterday held a one day summit targeted at Blue Economy Investment.
The one day Summit held in Uyo with the theme “Harnessing the potentials of Blue Economy (Ocean) through private sector participation for regional development” docused on the various challenges bedevilling the potential realisation of the benefits of Blue Economy in the country and south South region in particular.
In his brief remarks to set the tone, the Akwa Ibom state commissioner for Trade and Investment Engr. Camilius Umoh said the Blue Economy has a ready and available market and made up of replenishable energy unlike the oil and gas sector that will dry up someday.
Umoh noted that the state has a long coastal line of about 129km and abundant tourism potential making the state a tourist delight.
“Thank God the incoming Governor is already a player in the tourism and hospitality industry and will see the potentials in the sector as a low hanging fruits.” He said.
The commissioner maintained that the multiplier effect of the Blue Economy would be enormous and will add so much to the system and other value chain stressing that the people must strategies and be intentional about developing the Blue Economy.
The president of COSSCCIMA Dr Okon Emah in his welcome address said the mission of the Association is to advocate favourable policies that encourages both local and international investment in the region while expanding through technology transfer and knowledge of the best practices for her members and SMEs in the south South region.
According to him, “the south South/ NigerDelta region is with vast potential for economic growth and development. These potentials can be harnessed through the development of the Blue Economy, which encompass the economic activities related to the ocean, including Marine tourism, aquaculture, shipping and offshore oil and gas exploration.”
He further highlighted that the region and Nigeria has continued to lose revenue from the Blue Economy tremendously by way of piracy, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities and marine pollution stressing that the losses reflect heavily on the Gross Domestic Product and remained the root causes for hostilities amongst coastal communities, pervasive poverty and loss of livelihoods.
He reiterated that the 1st International summit of the Association on Blue Economy investment was designed to bring together all stakeholders for the sustainability of the Ocean Economy.
Speaking on the topic: Blue Economy opportunities for the private sector-challenges and chances, a Professor of Economics and public policy at the University of Uyo Prof Akpan Hogan Ekpo said over three billion people around the world depends on the ocean for livelihood while 80 percent of major businesses are done using the seas.
Ekpo opined that the ocean and seas have provided sources of food and businesses while human activities that priorities economic gains pose serious danger to the blue Economy.
According to the former Vice Chancellor of university of Uyo, ” There should be an immediate action to safeguard the ocean and people who depends on it.
Taking a peep into the Niger Delta region, Ekpo suggested the need for government to encourage the private sector to invest in Marine businesses.
” People in the south South region are miserably poor and an investment in the sector will enhance thier fortunes. The states are currently surviving on federal allocation except Lagos and Kano. Others must invest in Blue Economy to increase thier Internally Generated Revenue (IGR) as revenue from oil is no longer realistic and oil will soon dry up.” He stated.
He cited some of the challenges facing the realisation of the Blue Economy to include lack of awareness and paucity of information, others are difficulties in getting bank loans, lack of capital, hostile investment climate and insecurity among many others.
Ekpo bemoaned government lukewarm attitude towards maritime investment and businesses citing delays in approving geninue proposals as a major setback in the realisation of the Blue Economy in the country.
He appealed to government at all levels to engage the best brains in the management of the economy stressing that once education and health system malfunction, the economy collapses.
“We must take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Blue Economy as it will create more jobs for people in the coastal communities and strengthen support along Blue Economy value chain.” He said.
In his good will message, President of Nigerian Association of chamber of commerce industry, mines and Agriculture Ide John Udeagbala noted that the concept of Blue Economy as a new frontier for economic development in Nigeria is a sector yet to be explored.
Udeagbala appealed to government to help remove barriers that slow the realisation of the objective while urging people to take advantage of the summit to synergies and make remarkable impact on the Blue Economy investment.
On her own a retired general manager of Nigerian Ports Authority Mrs Ann Ukpong said the ports remained the life wire of the Blue Economy and urged the stakeholders to pursue Port development as what is obtainable so far in the region is miserably low.
“The entire ports in the South South region of the nation cannot handle up to 25 percent of business coming into Nigeria, no port in the South South has roll in and roll off terminal except Lagos.The chambers of commerce in the South South should embark on advocacy role to create awareness on Blue Economy investment”.
Elder Nseyen Ebong a former Rector of Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron in his contribution called for immediate human capacity development in the area.
According to Ebong, ” I have appealed to the Vice chancellors of university of Uyo and Akwa ibom state university to create faculty of Marine sciences in the institution and further urge the Rector Akwa ibom state polytheistic to create a department of Marine studies. We cannot afford to look helpless in search of capable hands when the lofty projects come on stream”.