#MaritimeRealityCheck: Maritime dimension to food security demands significant action urgently – Ilori
On our series “Maritime Reality Check” Marine engineer, Emmanuel Ilori, shares his insights and thoughts on NOSDRA’s findings on cause of dead fish washed ashore the Niger Delta coastline in March 2020.
Stakeholders in Nigeria’s maritime industry need to work out immediate actions to address issues in the maritime dimension to food security in the country, Marine engineer, Emmanuel Ilori has called.
On the strength of food security concern, Ilori argued that the findings given by the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) in a recent case of dead croaker fish washed ashore the coastline of the Niger Delta, was subject to more worries.
He said that, if according to NOSDRA the fish deaths were caused by toxic waste, then it should have affected more than a specie of fish in the water. While relevant agencies of government would have also made efforts to trace the toxic waste to wherever it came from.
The issue of security of our maritime environment, that is, the monitoring of the activities within the maritime domain, still requires some more work to be done.That is the first issue we need to consider.
He argued also that a toxic waste resulting from a ship at sea would also have affected more species of fish than just croaker.
He would rather think that a fishing vessel would have been involved in an incident at sea and spilled its content or dumped the fish when it noticed a problem.
But, whatever the problem was, Ilori thought the incident now demands that the nation strengthens maritime domain security.
On the broader demand to address food security, Ilori told our correspondent on ‘Maritime Insights and Thoughts’ that Nigeria would need to build structures that would expressly support fish production, being a fish-consuming people, who spend huge foreign exchange on fish importation.
The danger of doing that, following the slowed-down economic activities occasioned by COVID-19 lockdown, Ilori said, would be food shortage as economies around the world would concentrate on feeding their people first, even as Nigeria would have spent so much from her foreign reserves from oil.
“The maritime environment as Nigeria’s exclusive economic zone, is a fertile area that should be feeding our people. Now, post-Covid-19, food security is going to be an issue because, the money that we derive at the moment is going down, other nations will now be concentrating on their ability to feed their nation to kick-start their economy.
So, therefore, Nigeria is not exempted from that phenomenon. They need then to be thinking of food security. The question we then ask is that “does the maritime has a role to play in food security?” the answer is yes, because we have a huge maritime domain that we should secure and harness for the benefit of our people.
“First and foremost is to feed our people, and secondly to conserve our dwindling foreign reserve. So that our dependent on oil import would reduce, because, it is out of the oil dependent that we were able to fund the fish that we import.
“So, if we are able to harness our oceans and produce our own fish, what is coming out of the dependence on oil would be used for developing other parts of the country and we would be able to generate income from the fish.”
Speaking on the importance of a vibrant ship registry, Ilori who heads the implementation committee on the reform of the NIMASA Ship Registry Office , said that after some ground work, it would be more beneficial for the work to be a national ship registry reform, and not limited to just an office.
“So, in the course of our work, we found that it was the Nigerian Ship Registry itself that needs to be reformed. And this is the discussion that is ongoing at the moment that NIMASA needs to look at it as the Nigerian Ship Registry reform.
“We have done most of the groundwork, and then unfortunately COVID-19 came in, which means we are only just coming back slowly to work. But this should be what we believe the new management of NIMASA should be looking into, the Nigerian Ship Registry, because the ship registry itself is fundamental to the Nigerian maritime industry and luckily they have started to do some work on it. Again, the focus should be on Nigerian Ship Registry reform,” Ilori added.
Other very important areas needing urgent and committed action are structures for national technical development initiative that looks at all the various aspects of Nigeria’s maritime industry and then identify areas of development.
He said: “We raised the issue of maritime dimensions of our food security. There are the issues maritime dimensions of the energy security, because the energy comes from our oil and gas industry basically. But then, it is not dominated by Nigerians.”
Importantly on manpower development, the marine engineer said Nigeria must begin to do all that is very crucial to developing seafarers needed to man sub-sectors in the industry.
He said “On human capacity development which comes to seafarers issues, again we have not been able to actively develop that for us to take full advantage of the opportunities therein.
“Specifically to the seafarers’ welfare, the issue of unethical employment is still there in the Nigerian maritime environment. You cannot run away from that; seafarers being owed wages of months, seafarers not being adequately compensated, their working environment, seafarers who have gone to colleges, who cannot find berthing space.
“These are all issues, but we cannot rely on foreigners to provide our maritime human capacity development or to provide our manpower. So, we need to look at that, how we can develop that.”
He is hopeful that when the Mission to Seafarers office in Nigeria begins engagement with the relevant agencies, stronger structure would be set in place to support not just Nigerian seafarers, but foreign seafarers who are on board bringing supplies to Nigeria.