Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, has kicked against the proposal to provide not less than 12 percent of Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency’s (NIMASA) revenue for the Nigerian Maritime University, Okerenkoko, Delta state.
The minister who made his position known during a public hearing on three bills relating to the maritime industry organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, however, said the ministry would continue to support the University, as it recognizes the crucial role that the institution plays in developing local capacity within the Maritime sector.
Amaechi who was represented by the director of legal services in the ministry, Pius Oteh, described the proposal as excessive as it does not adequately take cognizance of the diverse responsibilities of NIMASA in a challenging fiscal environment.
He said the proposal, in one of the Bills to amend the NIMASA Act 2007 to strengthen the institution, appears to not recognize the fact that as a public institution regulated by the Nigerian Universities Commission and Federal Ministry of Education, the institution would equally be entitled to funds publicly appropriated by the National Assembly on a yearly basis.
Meanwhile, Speaker, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila, said the aim of the Bills is to ensure the maritime sector of the national economy operates optimally.
He said it is to make the sector more attractive to investors and better suited to meet the needs of the people who rely on the maritime industry in various ways, including as a source of jobs and economic opportunity.
He said efforts at reforming the sector will continue because as Nigeria continues to diversify its economy away from over-reliance on income from the sale of fossil fuels, the shipping and maritime transportation industry represents a significant untapped resource.
He said the parliament has an obligation to advance policies and legislation to unlock the potential in that sector and maximize the potential economic benefits to the Nigerian people.
However, in carrying out this role, he cautioned against over-regulation of the industry.
Chairman of the House Committee, Hon Lynda Ikpeazu, said the maritime sector is a foundation and catalyst to the growth of nations that possess marine endowments.
She said Nigeria, by any standard, is well endowed by ocean coastline, rivers and a rich marine biodiversity.
Ikpeazu said the fact that Nigeria’s marine pedigree has not translated into a vibrant maritime industry has remained a paradox to all.
She said as parliamentarians charged with legislating, oversight as well as representing the sector, they are poised to reverse this trend.
“Not only are we focused on making the maritime sector a key alternative source of revenue and economic growth to our dwindling oil resources, we are also poised to develop a prosperous blue economy for our nation, akin to similar successes in other maritime nations around the world.
“It is in this light that this public hearing is very important. It is an avenue to tap into the views and obtain inputs of both operators and regulators, whom in any case will be at the receiving end of their implementation, and other sector experts,” she said.