Nigerian Navy confab unveils blue economy potential

I remember having extensive discussions with Commodore Suleman Dahun, the Nigerian Navy director of information who visited my office a day before the commencement of the Chief of Naval Staff Annual Conference in Kano. We talked on a wide variety of issues pertaining the image making project, the impact of the social media on national development and particularly about the conference as well as Nigeria’s untapped blue economy.

That discussion informed my commitment to fully participate in the three-day conference, which in the words of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje can best be treasured through recognizing the bond that exists between having a secure maritime domain and the socio-economic development of the nation. 

The conference, which has as its theme: “Enhancing Nigeria’s Maritime Security for Improved National Prosperity,” is also a platform for intellectual discourse that is tailored towards enhancing the collective maritime security architecture of the country and featured many presentations by experts on maritime protection and blue economy.

It was  also attended by the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo; Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Lucky Irabor; Inspector General of Police; former chiefs of Naval Staff, former governors, members of the diplomatic corps, high ranking naval officers, members of the National Assembly, traditional leaders, among other important dignitaries.

The conference must have come at a time when the country is in dire need of diversification of the economy with the declining demand for its oil which accounts for 90% of export revenue. 
Nigeria is yet to fully recover from the impact of the COVID-19 following the disruption it wrought upon the oil global markets and multiple constraining factors, with far reaching consequences for the economy.  Experts at the conference, therefore, want the federal government to consider immediately our blue economy as a major revenue alternative to oil. 
Just as Nigeria banned the importation of rice which prompted a  revolution of a kind in the agricultural sector, with many Nigerians embracing farming that result in massive production of local rice, it can also work towards sustainable exploitation of ocean resources for economic growth and national development.
Nigeria stands to gain immensely if it adopt and implement a credible strategy for harnessing the resources of the blue economy considering that the country is strategically located within the resource-rich Gulf of Guinea.

Its maritime environment is known to hold a good percentage of Africa’s oil production and significant percent of the continent’s proven reserves and a major source of food stock and supply. It boasts of some of the continent’s riches and abundant fisheries, a vital source of protein need, consumed locally and internationally.

However, the current utilization practice of the oceans in Nigeria is based on the outdated model which is an unsanctionable way of maritime practices of fishing, transportation and off-shore oil and gas exploitation. 

The blue economy, according to experts, incorporates the emerging sectors of marine biotechnology, deep sea mining, off-shore renewable energy and eco-tourism amongst others. These ocean resources are embedded in the Gulf of Guinea, a major natural endowment. That means Nigeria is ignorantly seating on a blue economy with massive economic potential for the country if properly harnessed.

It should however be noted that such can only be achieved through effective security mechanism that gives protection to our territorial waters. 

Nigeria had played a leadership position, using the mechanism of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) to bring peace to Liberia after about seven years of civil war and led the “Operation Prosperity”, a collaboration involving its navy and those from Benin Republic and Togo, aimed at securing the maritime territory bordering those three countries. 

These show clearly Nigeria’s capacity and readiness to work in partnership with other stakeholders to tackle the challenges of maritime insecurity in the entire Gulf of Guinea for national development and economic growth.
Like it was proven in the two previously mentioned engagements, a problem that surpasses national boundaries can hardly be single-handedly tackled effectively by one country, no matter its size, capacity and capability; it requires the cooperation of the countries that are directly and indirectly affected to bring it under control, if not totally eliminated.
The conference harps on the need for legislative initiatives by the National Assembly desirable to bolster the development of the Blue Economy in the medium-to-long term, and also re-double effort by the Nigerian Navy to facilitate cross-sectoral policy initiatives to galvanize due action on the triad Blue Economy pillars of livelihood, national economic development and sustainable exploration and exploitation of the marine environment.

It was also part of the communique issued at the end of the conference that the Nigerian Navy will exercise all possible initiatives in maintaining its leader’s role in facilitating and promoting the Blue Economy to be duly recognized by maritime stakeholders in order to put potential conflicts over responsibility and jurisdiction at bay in legislative, policy, coordination and resource allocation.

The Navy also used the opportunity of its jaunt in Kano to gage the 100 hectre land it was granted by the Kano state government to situate the Naval Logistics School and move its Desert Warfare Institute which is a unit of highly trained personnel recognized to be of best performance.

It requested for more land it want to use to establish a garment industry for the economic benefit of the hosting community and other things that will be of significant advantage to the society; formation of a barrack to defend itself and the state when the need arises; as well as another piece of land on behalf of the Naval Officers Wives Association (NOWA) for the setting up of a 200-bedded hospital.

There was also a Career Talk to prepare the minds of youth in the state to join it as part of efforts to meet up with the quota spelt out for its citizens during military intake as well as a medical rhapsody.

There was also a tour of both completed and ongoing critical infrastructure projects intitiated and executed by the Ganduje administration  which amazes the visiting naval officers. The projects included Aliko Dangote Skill Acquisition Centre, Cancer Treatment Centre, three layer Zaria Road by Zoo Road Flyover and Underpass, among others.

The conduct of the conference and other activities it plans to execute as well as its huge presence of the Navy in the core north has proven wrong the erroneous belief that it can only operate in territorial waters. This is a dynamic initiative by the eloquent naval chief, Vice Admiral Gambo, who is just seven months in office. The effort by this gentleman has also brought about sweeping changes that reposition the navy for the better.

Garba is the commissioner for Information, Kano state