Stakeholders have expressed concern over the current state of the transport sector in Nigeria, even as indications have emerged that the trade deficit will reach $2.43 billion in 2022.
Stakeholders who said this at the Nigerian Maritime Law Association (NMLA) breakfast series recently held in Lagos, lamented the poor attitude of the government towards the development of the sector. , which is crucial for the country’s trade.
Afolabi Olowookere, guest speaker at the event and Managing Director, Data Services and Resource Analyst, said trade in transport services has historically been loss-making for Nigeria, implying the country is paying more than it does not attract. He said the deficit is estimated at $2.43 billion in 2022.
He lamented the situation in which passenger and freight deficits of $1.06 billion and $3.48 billion were recorded in 2020 and estimated at $1.19 billion and $2.66 billion respectively for 2021 Consequently.
Meanwhile, he said water transport contributed a measly 0.01 to Nigeria’s GDP in 2021.
Olowookere, who also chastised the underdevelopment of the water/maritime transport sector, said the sector has a lot of potential for growth and contribution to the overall development of the country, but has been underutilized.
He noted that the major sectors of Nigerian GDP are agriculture (23.7%); Manufacturing (14.83 percent); Trade (13.42%); ICT (10.41%); Construction (9.56%); Mining and quarrying (6.19%) while rail transport and pipelines contribute 0.00%.
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This, he said, showed that water transport only added 10 billion naira to a total GDP of 176.08 trillion naira in 2021.
Noting that the maritime industry goes beyond water transport, Olowookere said the industry’s contribution to GDP appears low when the narrow definition of water transport is taken into account, but a broader definition suggests that it is a major driver of other key sectors of the economy.
He listed the challenges of the Nigerian maritime industry to include safety and security challenges; underdevelopment of inland waterway transport; unpredictable shipping policy; low proportion of indigenous carriers; high congestion of seaports; poor transit and transhipment facilities.
Others are highly bureaucratic clearing processes involving multiple agencies and non-automated processes; a shortage of skilled labor and professionals; low financing and non-disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF).
NMLA President Funke Agbor said the association is concerned about the maritime industry, which is an economic sector that has not been fully developed, and has had to engage industry players to discuss the challenges facing the sector.
According to her, the problems have existed for more than 40 years, but the NMLA wants things done differently.
“We want to make sure the industry is working together to make the changes we want. We also want to use ourselves as a pressure group to infiltrate the government. More importantly, we all agreed that changes needed to be made in the maritime sector. We can use facts and figures to show the government that we can do things differently,” she said.