Seun Onigbinde: Nigeria can unlock $1bn annually from blue economy

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Seun Onigbinde, director and co-founder of BudgIT, emphasized the need for Nigeria to strategically maximize the potential of its blue economy ecosystem.

During a webinar on ‘Nigeria’s Blue Economy: Beyond Oil and Gas’ with fellows of the Blue Economy Youth Advocacy Project (BEYA Project) on Tuesday, Onigbinde highlighted that the federal government could generate up to $1 billion in annual revenue by implementing the right policies and integrating the blue economy with other sectors.

He pointed out that beyond oil and gas, significant investments and economic growth could be derived from tourism, aquaculture, marine transportation, and biodiversity. Onigbinde cited examples of countries like Seychelles, Kenya, and the Maldives, which have successfully invested in coastal tourism and are reaping substantial revenue.

“Nigeria has a vast ocean floor stretching from Badagry to Bonny, yet we have not fully exploited its economic potential. There is immense growth and investment opportunity in this area,” Onigbinde said.

“There are many individuals involved in this sector, but there isn’t a clear understanding of the federal government’s earnings from granting fishing rights. I estimate that we could unlock up to a billion dollars annually in government revenue and contribute significantly to our GDP. Unfortunately, due to our focus on oil, we often overlook other lucrative opportunities.”

Onigbinde expressed concern that Nigeria is missing out on substantial tourism revenue. He criticized the sale of coastal fronts to private individuals and attributed the country’s failure to capitalize on its oceanfront opportunities to poor security networks and a lack of vision.

“If you visit places like Mombasa and Zanzibar, you’ll see their coastlines filled with beaches and resorts. In Nigeria, potential beach areas have been sold to corporate interests, leaving few public beaches available. We’re even planning to build an expressway on these small beach fronts, which is not ideal,” he said.

Onigbinde also stressed the importance of investment in aquaculture, noting that fish is the most affordable and nutritious source of protein available. He called for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture projects and emphasized the need for governance that involves local organizations and communities.

Regarding the creation of the ministry of marine and blue economy, Onigbinde acknowledged it as a positive step but noted that the ministry appears to be missing its priorities. He suggested that the ministry should focus on policy integration with other sectors and develop a comprehensive approach to managing the oceanfront and renewable energy projects.

Shakir Akorede, BEYA Project lead, highlighted the need for increased awareness campaigns to educate Nigerians about the valuable resources in the country’s water bodies. He called for a partnership between BudgIT and the Nudge Initiative, the organizer of the BEYA Project, to engage stakeholders and drive a national dialogue on the blue economy.

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