By Ejiro Umukoro
The House of Representatives on Tuesday unveiled plans to investigate the low implementation level of the Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) Act, 2003, leading to the loss of $100 billion annually.
The resolution was passed sequel to the adoption of a motion by Hon. Awaji-Inombek Abiante (PDP-Rivers), who solicited for the House intervention.
In his lead debate, Hon. Abiante observed that the Cabotage Act, 2003 was enacted by the National Assembly “to restrict the use of foreign vessels in domestic coastal trade, assist in promoting the development of indigenous tonnage and establish a vessel financing fund, thus the Act was introduced to stimulate, empower and reposition indigenous shipping companies for active participation in the Sub-Saharan shipping activities.
“The House also notes that the main objective of the Act was to protect indigenous shipping companies and create economic and employment opportunities for Nigerians in the Maritime sector.
“The House observes that after 20 years of the enactment of the law, the shipping trade is still dominated by foreign-owned vessels.
“The House is aware that on 25 June, 2023, at the International Maritime Organization Day of the Seafarers celebration, the Joint Body of the Seafarer’s Professional Groups (NSPG) said that the nation’s maritime industry is losing $100 billion annually due to the inability of the Federal Government to implement the Cabotage Act.
“The House is also aware that at the same event, the Secretary General of the Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria, Captain Alfred Oniye informed the audience that most of the jobs that are supposed to be handled by Nigerian Seafarers are being occupied by foreigners, thus rendering 80% of Nigerian Seafarers jobless. He said further that if the Cabotage, Act is fully implemented, it will create thousands of jobs for Nigerians because ships would be built locally and owned by Nigerians;
“The House is worried that due to the very low implementation of the Cabotage, Act by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited and others that are involved in maritime activities, the nation economy and job creation are being seriously threatened,” he noted.
To this end, the House mandated the joint referred to the House Committee on Ports and Harbour, Shippers Council and Maritime Services for further legislative action.