Nigeria must begin to tap into the maritime potentials it is endowed with, to massively reduce the cost of road maintenance.
This could be done among others through the establishment of maritime college and the creation of enabling environment for investors in water transportation.
A construction expert, Lanre Rasak and a maritime expert, Mr Ibrahim Agoro made the call in Lagos.
Already, the bill for the establishment of the maritime college in Okerenkoko in the Niger Delta region has passed the second reading at the National Assembly. During the former President Jonathan administration, funds was earmarked for the maritime university and the contract for the perimeter fence of the university was awarded.
Enhancing boat operation
The experts told Voice of Nigeria that the college, if established in a state like Lagos, would in no small measure enhance the capacity of boat operators and other service providers in the maritime sector.
According to Mr Razaq, although government’s efforts in Lagos are commendable, more need to be done to deepen the people’s confidence in the area of water transportation, especially the issue of safety.
“We need to take the issue of safety with utmost concern in the maritime sub-sector so that those in charge of ferries plying Ijede to Lagos Island and Ikorodu to Lagos Island will be well trained, because this is one area where we have lost lives and property in the last one year and it should be a thing of concern to every well-meaning Nigerian,” he stressed.
Harnessing the maritime sector
Mr Ibrahim Agoro said the vast waterways had not been adequately harnessed especially as the maritime sector remained the driver for other industries.
He said that the failure to explore the country’s aquatic endowment would continue to directly and indirectly put pressure on the road infrastructure.
“The international community is looking up to us within the African region to be the pace-setter in the maritime industry, when it comes to maritime safety as well; Nigeria is expected to blaze the trail in West Africa. This is not a trial and error industry, we just have to get it right, the oil and gas depends largely on the maritime… Oil and gas does not exist without the maritime sector because after you have got the crude, you must transport it, will it be transported by air? No, it has to be by the sea, same goes for heavy machineries that are majorly imported. They all come in by sea” the maritime expert stated.
Nigeria is blessed with a total of 8,600 kilometres of inland waterways. However, the mostly used for commerce are in the Niger Delta and Lagos. Despite having the largest road network in West Africa, Nigeria only boasts of about 108,000 km of surfaced roads.
While road transport accounts for more than 90 percent of the sub-sector’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP), water transportation only boasts of 1.6 percent of Nigeria’s GDP.
Between 2007 and now, water ridership in Lagos has increased to about 2 million from 500,000 passengers but experts believe that the current figure is still a tip of the iceberg.