- Our $5b Investment Under Threat, Say Investors
Fish giants have begged the Federal Government to save their investments of over $5 billion from imminent collapse.
They said from 40 fishing companies operating almost 250 industrial vessels 15 years ago, the industry is nothing to write home about today.
Speaking under the aegis of the Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), they said their operations were being affected by what they called the economic harsh environment.
NITOA National Vice President, Gen Morounfolu Aromire (rtd), said: “Despite the more than $5.2 billion investment of our members on jetty facilities, equipment and infrastructure, only about 130 vessels are in operation due to the harsh situations that the industrial fishing operators have had to contend with.
“These have led to several companies going into limbo to the extent that only 12 companies are operating now.”
The group said with support, it would assist “in generating the much-needed foreign exchange from the non-oil exports”.
NITOA’s operations, Aromire added, provided employment to over 6,000 Nigerians and more than 600,000 jobs indirectly across the country before their predicament, adding that the government needs to assist them.
The group, he said, would have improved on its shrimp production and export capabilities and increase local fish production level from 10 per cent to 35 per cent, if not for the challenges facing them.
“Sea armed robbery and piracy have led to the killing and maiming of crew men, thus making the highly productive areas in our marine waters inaccessible.
“While we must accept that the situation is much better than it was few years back, there is still a lot of room for improvement. Attacks were still reported some few days ago. NIMASA must synergise much more with the Nigerian Navy to ensure that our maritime environment is safe and secure.
“While we appreciate efforts by the Federal Government at earmarking a fisheries terminal at the KLT in Lagos, the encumbrances on the way of those efforts may not allow it mature as quickly as one may wish.
“We, therefore, want to further suggest that companies already operating from KLT 1 and 2 be allowed to continue to operate from their locations.
“NPA may only need to charge some reasonable commercial rates, but which will not drive operators out of business,” he said.
The Shippers Association of Lagos (SAL) has also cried out over the rising robbery on the waterways.
The waterways, it said, had become a haven for robbery, urging the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to secure the terrain.
SAL President Mr Jonathan Nicol said NIMASA must collaborate with the law enforcement agencies to tackle the problem. Nicol urged NIMASA to do more to secure goods and ships on waterways.
“NIMASA should use helicopter regularly to checkmate these pirates and also seek the protection of the Navy, Customs and the police on the issue.
“If the Federal Government fails to do this, it means we are going to lose so much revenue from the maritime sector,” Nicol said.
A shipper, Mr Solomon Anderson has suggested radar and satellite technology as part of the measures NIMASA should look into in finding a solution to the problem.
He called on the National Assembly to look at the Anti-Piracy Bill before it as many indigenous companies have been crippled and many children orphaned because sea pirates activities.
Anderson also identified radar technology and effective information sharing as the solution to the incessant high-jacking and robbery of shipping trawlers and oil vessels.
“Nigeria’s food security is being affected; our foreign exchange is being affected because these activities lead to capital flight as more foreign vessels now do most of the jobs,” he said.
But NIMASA’s Director-General Dr Dakuku Peterside, said the agency was addressing the security challenges on the waterways.
He added that the agency had initiated some positive measures to enhance security within and outside the nation’s territorial waters.
Peterside said the agency was working with security agencies, such as the Air Force, Navy, Army and Police, to ensure that the waterways are safe for freighting and fishing.
He advised trawler owners to ensure that they paid adequate attention to the remuneration of their crew because many are poorly paid; noting that poor pay usually leads them into criminal activities, such as selling their first catch at sea and subsequently drawing the attention of pirates.