Our Navy can perform better
TWO fundamental factors have made the Nigerian economy maritime based. First is the fact that we are a nation in love with foreign goods. As reported by the National Bureau of Statistics recently, our reliance on foreign imports has been on an all time high between March 2012 to February of 2015.
The report says 27% of our imports for the period were industrial supplies, 23% capital goods, 17% food and beverages, 14% fuel and lubricants, 12% transport equipment and parts, and 7% consumer goods.
The global network of imports, according to the report, show that 43% of our imports come from Asia; 34% from Europe; 15% from America and 7% from Africa. Needless to say, 90% of these imports come through our territorial waters and are discharged at our sea ports.
Last week, a statement made available to journalists by the General Manager Public Affairs, Nigerian Ports Authority, Capt Iheanacho Ebubeogu revealed that the first quarter of 2015 witnessed an increase in cargo throughput of 7.2% totalling 49.3 million tonnes.
Secondly, Nigeria’s vast wealth in fossil fuel which play a leading role in driving the economy is for now minned mostly on and off shore in the marshy coastal waters of the Niger Delta.
Nigeria’s exports of oil and natural gas – at a time of peak prices – enable the country to post merchandise trade and current account surpluses for years running.
Thus faced with an economy that is dependent on sea ports and a natural resource that is found in its sea waters and around its sea shores, we have no option but to make sure the Nigerian Navy which is constitutionally mandated to protect our maritime boundaries is up to its task.
Sadly, this appears not to be the case as the new Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, was reported to have said that 50 per cent of the ships needed to achieve the goal of protecting our territorial waters are down.
He made the pronouncement while on a visit to Lagos alongside other senior officers to have a dialogue with officers and ratings during his familiarisation tour at the Nigeria Navy Ship (NNS) Quora in Lagos.
He said: “We have more than 50 per cent of our ships down and some of the problems are avoidable. I am always perplexed at the way we handle what we call government property.
The truth is that we are short changing ourselves because the money government gives us will go back to repairing those equipment.” On his vision for the navy, Ibas said: “My vision is to develop a credible naval power in fulfilment of the Nigerian Navy constitutional roles towards enhancing national prosperity and security.”
Since his appointment as the Naval Chief, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas has been quoted more than once, exhorting his men to be of good conduct by adhering to service and other government regulations.
He has urged his men to ensure the total eradication of oil theft and warned them to stay away from any form of illegal operation. He is quoted several times to have said: “I will not involve myself in any illegal act and I will not tolerate it.
Nobody will or should use my name to perpetuate any illegal operation. Those excesses will no longer be tolerated. “The nation is losing a lot through illegal activities and we must stop it.
We must curtail illegal crude oil theft, bunkering and other prominent practices.” These are indeed patriotic commitments. Given the precarious nature of our maritime based economy, the easiest way to stir up some serious social upheaval in Nigeria would be to destabilise or block all of our sea ports.
The consequent shortages of consumer goods would spark off a commotion unheard of in the history of this country. Such a dramatic tragedy has not happened to Nigeria but a more subtle form of economic sabotage has been going on unabated for some time now – oil theft.
The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) former chief executive Andrew Yakubu and the Coordinating Minister of the Economy and former Minister of Finance Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala all lamented this systematic ruination of the nation on several occassions.
Okonjo-Iweala said that Nigeria was losing $1 billion or N155 billion revenues every month to oil theft at the time she was in office. The losses, blamed on pipeline vandals are equivalent to the total production of Equatorial Guinea and larger than the entire production of Ghana, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon and Gabon put togather.
These staggering losses were all recorded when some ex-militants were over pampered with mouth watering contracts to protect the pipelines. President Buhari did the right thing in stopping the dubious contracts and appointing thorough professionals as service chiefs. The current Chief of Naval Staff, going by his pronouncements is poised to offer patriotic service to his country.
A general that reads the riot act to his men in public must mean business. The Navy under him will certainly do a better job in protecting our water ways and our economy if the National Assembly appropriates adequate funds for the agency that is constitutionally charged with this responsibility – the Navy. • Emmanuel Yawe is former Editor of Crystal News Magazine. He resides in Abuja.