BY KOLA ODEPEJU
In her efforts to diversify the economy with a view to earning more revenue and enhance her foreign exchange, Nigeria under the leadership of president Bola Tinubu has joined the league of the Blue Economy countries of the world by creating the ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, a development that has attracted applause from different quarters across the country.
In view of the dwindling revenue from crude oil due to oil theft and also for the fact that in the foreseeable future, oil will no longer be able to sustain the country, economic diversification has therefore become a necessity.
For there’s obviously going to be a paradigm shift from using petro to power vehicles as the world will move to using electric vehicles, hybrid-electric vehicles, solar-powered vehicles etcetera; which by implication, revenue from oil and its foreign exchange earning capacity will reduce drastically.
Until now, the words ‘Blue Economy’ couldn’t be found in the country’s lexicon. Though the issue of economic diversification has been a major concern in right thinking quarters, emphasis has always been much placed on agriculture as an alternative to petrodollar. However, despite having identified agriculture as an alternative source of income for the country, not much has been achieved in that sector. Reasons for this are obvious. One, people are used to free oil money and we have therefore become lazy and not ready to go back to farming.
Secondly, not much encouragement has come from the government. Despite diversifying to the agric sector, the government has paid lip service to it as loans are not readily available for farmers and where they are available, the interests are too high. Also, other modern farming equipment is scarcely available to those interested in farming.
The third reason why we haven’t had the desired agricultural breakthrough is insecurity. For instance it’s quite sad that much as the immediate past administration of president Muhammadu Buhari tried to set the country on the path of agricultural breakthrough, negative and lethal activities of saboteurs like Boko Haram, bandits, insurgents and some Fulani herdsmen couldn’t allow the country to achieve the desired result.
But hope is not lost with respect to the substantial benefits we stand to reap from the agric-sector if we are serious about it both at governmental and citizens’ levels.
Agriculture has unparalleled potential of sustaining our population even as huge as it is. It’s just that we haven’t really been serious about it as we should.
We can recall that all the feats the avatar, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo of blessed memory recorded as the Premier of Western Region were achieved through proceeds from agriculture and taxes as Nigeria hadn’t discovered crude oil then.
Diversification to the ‘Blue Economy’ is a great thought by President Tinubu as this is long overdue.
Nigeria cannot continue to depend solely on petroleum for survival especially in view of the challenges ahead as mentioned above.
The Blue Economy is a vast area with the potential to generate huge revenue for the country and create millions of jobs.
Thankfully enough the man appointed by Mr. President to head the new ministry, Gboyega Oyetola, is a man that has the capacity to deliver the goods.
No doubt Oyetola will bring his wealth of experience to bear in the new ministry to achieve the desired result for the country.
Like the minister also said in his speech during the reception in his honour on the day the ministers were inaugurated, “the Blue Economy has the potential of generating $1.5trillion annually for the country”.
This is a huge sum; more than even what solid minerals can earn the country.
Nigeria has depended solely on petroleum for years and this has blurred her vision from looking at other areas that can earn her huge revenue and provide jobs for her citizens.
One such area is the Blue Economy. Some countries of the world including a few African countries have for long tapped into this sector and have been reaping huge benefits from it in terms of income and jobs for their citizens.
For instance Portugal just received a sum of 392.6 million euro from the European maritime, fisheries and aquaculture fund to support further implementation of sustainable fisheries and aquaculture.
Also the Blue Economy is the pillar of ‘Kenya’s Vision 2030 Development Program’.
Countries like India, Vietnam, Gambia, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Tobago, are earning significant incomes from the Blue Economy. Thus, Nigeria cannot afford to be a laid-back country in this money spinning sector.
Experts have said that the Blue Economy has the potential of generating three hundred thousand direct jobs and two million indirect jobs for the country.
The minister of Marine and Blue Economy, Adegboyega Oyetola whose capacity and creative ability are not in doubt must use his technocratic expertise to achieve the desired result in this new sector.
He must use his administrative prowess to organize the ministry and other Agencies and Parastatals under him for effective functioning. For instance the Apapa Port must be redirected to full effective use and international competitiveness.
The Ports outside of Lagos should also be upgraded into full efficiency. The inland waterways have to be turned into revenue earners and job creating centres. They must be made to attract private investments.
The advantages the Blue Economy provides for us as a nation cannot be overemphasized. Tapping into this all-important sector Nigeria stands to benefit substantially from it.
Before concluding mention needs to be made also of the renewable energy which can generate thousands of electricity megawatts for the country.
Diversifying the economy into this sector is a well thought-out idea and a strategic master stroke of the Tinubu administration as it provides a historic opportunity to pull our economy out of the present quagmire it has unfortunately found itself in.
Thus a fortiori as Nigeria joins the league of the Blue Economy countries and as the able pioneering minister settles down for work, it’s the wish and prayer of this writer that Nigeria excels in the sector. Amen.
Odepeju, newspaper columnist and social commentator writes from Lagos via firstname.lastname@example.org