Fish trawler operators, under the aegis of the Nigerian Fishing Trawlers Association of Nigeria, have called on the Federal Government to urgently address critical issues affecting the growth of the trawling industry in Nigeria.
The body said this could be done through the institution of a sound overriding policy for the subsector, and provision of incentives.
NITOA, in a statement made available to our correspondent in Lagos on Wednesday, said instead of achieving improvements in its membersâ€™ operations and contributions to the growth of the nationâ€™s economy, emerging statistics from the subsector had continued to be discouraging.
Specifically, NITOA said the business had been bogged down by a myriad of challenges, including high cost of operation, especially occasioned by the means of supply of Automotive Gas Oil (commonly known as diesel); activities of sea pirates; absence of centralised fishing terminal; and much more importantly, the uneven administration of the Export Expansion Grant.
The President of President, Mr. John Overo, was quoted in the statement as saying that the combined effects of the problems had led to a drastic reduction in the number of fishing companies, from 44 operating companies three four years ago to seven firms currently.
â€œIf a subsector, which boasted about 44 members three years ago currently has about seven that are active in business, that should tell you the kind of challenges in the sector,â€ he said, adding that it was difficult to predict what would happen to the remaining members, except the authorities rose to the challenge of bailing the sector out.
Overo said for a sector facing competitive challenges from overseas operators, that there was no way it could survive without the Federal Governmentâ€™s support, especially through policy pronouncements.
He cited the example of the Export Expansion Grant scheme, which he described as a very good policy support for operators but had been lacking in performance, as a veritable desired support instrument.
â€œWe are appealing to the government to come to our aid. We want to say in clear terms that for the sector to thrive and contribute its quota, these issues need to be addressed. The export incentives, particularly the EEG scheme, are indispensable instruments and should be continued in order to encourage value addition, generate employment, mitigate bottlenecks/constraints and achieve the much desired non-oil export competitiveness and diversification.â€
Specifically, he said one way of actualising this was for the government to ensure that its agencies accept the Negotiable Duty Certificate for any payments due to it, in addition to import duties, Value Added Tax, income and withholding tax.