It is my pleasure and privilege to express the warm felicitations of the Government and people of Nigeria to you all on this occasion of the Tenth Conference of Ministers and the Tenth Anniversary of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC). Please accept also, our congratulations on the occasion of your tenth anniversary.
Let me also extend the gratitude of the Government and people of Nigeria, to the FCWC for giving us the opportunity to host this anniversary, I’m told this is the second time Nigeria is hosting this yearly meeting and I hope we will be given the chance to host it frequently.
It is important to remind ourselves of the objectives of this regional body, which includes the strengthening of sub-regional cooperation in fisheries management, monitoring, surveillance and enforcement operations; and the development of the capacity of small-scale fishing operators in member countries, to create sustainable livelihoods.
On the matter of small-scale fishing operators, a point that we cannot overlook, is that most of our national economies thrive largely on the combined energy of multitudes of individual entrepreneurs and small businesses – farmers, fishermen, artisans, traders. Our policies and programmes as governments must therefore, be directed towards supporting the aspirations and ambitions of these small-scale-but-big-energy entrepreneurs.
All six member-countries also need to deepen strategic cooperation, to harness the enormous fisheries potentials in the Gulf of Guinea for the benefit of our people. I implore the secretariat of the FCWC to prioritize the speedy sharing of information between member states, in order to more effectively checkmate the activities of foreign vessels fishing illegally within our territorial waters.
Your Excellencies, it is in the common and vital interest of our nations that we continue to give the FCWC our full support for the sustainable management of our fisheries resources.
On the part of Nigeria, we will continue to play our role in the support of FCWC. In line with this, I am happy to inform you that we have paid almost about $200,000 of our debt to the FCWC this year. I say the figure just to encourage everyone else, to toe the line of repaying debts as quickly as possible.
The safety of Nigeria’s maritime waters is also of principal concern to us. To this end, President Buhari has approved the purchase of some patrol vessels for the Department of Fisheries, which will be managed in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy.
These vessels will boost the search and rescue capacities of the relevant security agencies, deter illegal fishing, prevent illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing, and help secure our vessels at sea.
In the Northeast of Nigeria, terrorist activities of Boko Haram have devastated a fishing industry that has historically supplied much of West Africa. President Buhari earlier this year, approved the establishment of a Lake Chad Naval Base, to boost security, and fast-track the restoration of deprived livelihoods in that zone.
The theme of this conference which is: “Investing for Growth and Sustainability for Fisheries in West Africa” is an important one, both in terms of sharing experiences and laying out our aspirations for the economic well-being of our people.
Perhaps I might ask that you indulge me for a minute to share some of our success in agriculture and investments generally. Agriculture and aquaculture in particular, is easily one of the most critical of the multiple engines that will help diversify our economies, and create jobs and prosperity, especially for our young people.
We have focused on agriculture as being the pathway for sustainable growth for our people, and providing much needed jobs for the hundreds of thousands of young people graduating from various levels of our educational institutions. We think that fisheries and the whole aquaculture economy, will supply what we need in terms of opportunities for several of these young people and there are several initiatives we are proffering which the Ministry of Agriculture has been leading in the past few months.
I’m pleased to note that our efforts to reduce fish imports and increase local fish production, by encouraging the private sector to invest in aquaculture, is yielding positive results. Our domestic fish production in the last two years has increased from 450,000 metric tons to 1.1million metric tons.
This is no doubt regarding the result of the work we’re doing to encourage and enable investment in Nigeria. Our conviction is that Nigeria’s economic revolution must be led by private capital, and that government’s primary role is to create the enabling environment for commerce to thrive unhindered and this has greatly assisted our work in this respect.
We have worked quite hard, to ensure that we create the environment for investments; small, medium-sized and large investments.
We have worked at this especially in the last one year, by implementing a series of reforms that have earned us a place on the World Bank’s list of top ten most improved economies in 2017, from a business climate improvement perspective.
These reforms range from simplifying registration processes for new businesses, to making it easier for investors and entrepreneurs to access credit, to implementing a visa on arrival scheme that takes just about 48 hours to process. We are also effecting reforms aimed at easing bottlenecks in our seaports, for the benefit of importers and exporters.
Many of these reforms are in nascent stages, we are working daily to improve and fine-tune them. We have realized that we need to have an enabling environment, not just for foreign investments, but in particular for local investments to thrive. It is when local investments thrive that foreign investors may then feel enabled and inspired to come in to invest. Our focus is ensuring local investments thrive through several of the initiatives we have introduced.
I would like to reiterate the philosophy behind these reforms; Nigeria is open for business and investment. We would like to see investors take us up on this pledge. You’re very likely aware that there is a great deal of opportunity in Nigeria’s aquaculture industry – the size of our domestic market and our status as a gateway to West Africa together constitute a compelling business case.
On this note, let me once again express the sincere gratitude of the Nigerian government and people of Nigeria to the FCWC for giving Nigeria the opportunity to host you all. I hope that all the visiting Ministers and delegates have in the last few days, found the time between the busy sessions to experience and enjoy the beautiful scenery and warm hospitality of Abuja. If you have not, there is still a bit of time to catch up on that.
I trust that you have had successful and result-oriented deliberations so far, and that this Ministerial Conference will be ending on a fulfilling and productive note.
Thank you very much and God bless you all.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity
Office of the Vice President
December 15, 2017