The Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, has said that the new maritime security infrastructure being built by the Federal Government, the Deep Sea Project, would be a major economic trigger for the country.
Amaechi stated this in Lagos, while speaking with the media during the World Maritime Day celebrations, with the theme, “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”, in an occasion which 10 women were also honoured for their pioneering contributions to the maritime sector.
Ten students, who excelled in an essay competition organised by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) as part of the activities in commemoration of the Day were awarded the Agency’s educational grants at the occasion.
Amaechi said the Deep Sea Project, which aims to secure the country’s territorial waters up to the Gulf of Guinea, would inspire greater investors’ confidence in the Nigerian maritime sector and boost the sector’s contribution to the national economy.
“With this security infrastructure, the revenues of the agencies in the maritime sector will increase and the revenue to the country will also increase,” he stated.
“Currently, maritime sector is returning less than N100 billion; they should be doing more than that. They should be returning above N300 billion. But in terms of the economy, the maritime industry is contributing quite a lot,” the minister said.
He also spoke on the government’s plan to link the railway system to the seaports, as a way of integrating the maritime sector into the rail master structure as planned to make movements of goods to and from the ports more effective to boost the economy.
“All seaports in Nigeria must be connected by rail; that is a policy of government,” Amaechi said, adding, “We have put in place a 25-year modernisation programme for the rail system. With the master plan, we have taken rail from where the past government stopped into the seaports.
“For instance, the current Lagos-Kano rail line began from Ebute Metta. But when we came, we started another line from Ebute Metta to Apapa seaport. With this, when you bring in your goods, you turn them to the rail that takes them to the hinterland. The one from Lagos to Calabar will link the Calabar, Port Harcourt, and Onne seaports, and so on.”
The Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who made a presentation on the measures by the Federal Government to tackle maritime security in the country, expressed the hope that the female gender will play a major role in the execution of the anchor security scheme, the Deep Blue Project.
“We have various components in the coordinated maritime security solution and the female gender is already part of the project,” he said.
Dakuku said, “Aside land, air, and marine-based assets being acquired, we have an intelligence gathering component where the women are already playing a major role. We recognise gender equality as one of the key platforms on which we can build a sustainable solution to security challenges in Nigerian maritime sector.”
The Deep Blue Project is a multipronged approach towards tackling insecurity in the Nigerian territorial waters and the entire Gulf of Guinea. It involves the acquisition of assets, such as fast intervention vessels, surveillance aircraft, and other facilities, including a command and control centre for data collection and information sharing that will serve the goals of targeted enforcement. The project also includes the training of personnel from the security services to man the assets.
The objective is to build an integrated surveillance and security architecture that will comprehensively combat maritime crime and criminalities in Nigeria.
Speaking on the theme for this year’s World Maritime Day, Ameachi commended the leaderships of agencies of government in the maritime sector for their commitment to capacity development. He restated the commitment of the Federal Government to gender equality based on competence. He said women in Nigeria had shown that the female gender had the capacity to assist government attain the goal of lifting more Nigerians out of poverty.
The minister stated, “Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina Mohammed, has excelled as a global technocrat not because of her gender, but due to her knowledge and ability to deliver on assignments given to her.
“President Muhammadu Buhari is committed to giving capable women opportunity to serve Nigeria. Nigerian women should commit more to capacity development. Women are the most intelligent creation by God.”
Also speaking at the occasion, Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, called for more scholarship and mentorship schemes to boost female participation in the shipping sector. Saraki noted that the achievements of women in the maritime sector had shown that if given the opportunity, the Nigerian woman will excel.
“We want more scholarships for the girl child in Nigeria. Women who have been given the opportunity in Nigeria have excelled, just as we have shown with the NPA where Hadiza Bala Usman has made tremendous difference, being the first female MD of that Parastatal,” she stated.
Meanwhile, a student of the University of Ibadan, Mr. Toluwalope Ojewola, emerged overall winner of the essay competition organised by NIMASA to mark the World Maritime Day. Ojewola was tops in a group of 10 students whose entries were selected by an independent panel of judges for the final contest. But all 10 nominees were awarded the Agency’s educational grants.
The essay competition, which had over 100 entries, was on, “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community,” in line with the IMO campaign focus, “Supporting Gender Equality, Empowering Women” in maritime.
Ojewola was presented with a N500, 000 Education Grant, a laptop and a plaque by the Honourable Minister of Transportation at the occasion.
Miss Blessing Omataye of the University of Benin came second, while Alexander Chikudinaka Nwaegede from the University of Nigeria, Nsuka, came third. Both won educational grants and lap tops. They were part of the 10 students awarded educational grants by the Agency.
The annual essay competition, which commenced in 2017 is open to only first and second year students of tertiary institutions in Nigeria and is part of NIMASA’s commitment to getting youths, particularly girls, involved in the intellectual discourse on harnessing the potentials of the blue economy in Nigeria.
The event also witness the recognition of some women considered as pioneers in the Nigerian maritime sector. The first female Admiral in the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Itunu Hotonu, First female to Chair the Senate Committee on Maritime and now Minister of State Federal Ministry of Transportation, Senator Gbemi Saraki, Chairman House Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administrtion, Hon. Linda Chuba Ikpeazu, Nigeria’s first most senior female Director at the IMO, Mrs Monica Mbanefo, the First Female Managing Director of the NPA Hadiza bala Usman as well as the first female Director General of NIMASA Mrs Mfon Usoro. Others include Hajia Lami Tumaka Director special duties in NIMASA, Mrs Magaret Orakwusi, Mrs Chinwe Ezenwa, Ms Funmi Folorunso, Dr Vicky Haastrup, Mrs Juliana Gunwa and Mrs Ify Akerele.