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

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

Seun Onigbinde, director and co-founder of BudgIT, says Nigeria needs to be deliberate in optimising the full potential of its blue economy ecosystem.

Onigbinde spoke on Tuesday during a webinar on ‘Nigeria’s Blue Economy: Beyond Oil and Gas’ with fellows of the Blue Economy Youth Advocacy Project (BEYA Project).

He said the federal government can accrue as much as $1 billion in revenue annually if the appropriate policies are made, and the blue economy is integrated with other sectors.

Onigbinde said beyond oil and gas, huge investments and economic growth can be drawn from tourism, aquaculture, and marine transportation and biodiversity.


He cited examples of countries like Seychelles, Mombasa in Kenya, and the Maldives which have invested in, and are raking in revenue from coastal tourism.

“There is a long ocean floor that Nigeria has if you start from Badagry and you go all the way to Bonny but we have not optimised it as we should. There is a lot of economic growth in there. There’s a huge tourism investment there,” Onigbinde said.

“There are a lot of people involved in that environment but I don’t think there is anybody that can say this is the amount of earnings that the federal government gets by giving rights to people to fish.


“By my estimation, we can unlock as much as a billion dollars annually in government revenue. We can unlock at least the value of 20 percent of our GDP.

“The unfortunate thing with Nigeria is that because we have oil, we forget that every other opportunity exists or we discount the value that we get in every other places.

“We’re not thinking widely about the blue economy and the reason is because we don’t see value in it because we think we have everything in oil.”



Onigbinde said the government needs to unlock the opportunities in the tourism sector.

He expressed reservations about the selling off of coastal fronts to private individuals.

The director also blamed Nigeria’s inability to “unlock our opportunities within our oceanfront” on poor security networks and lack of vision.

“If you visit Mombasa and Zanzibar, you’d see that the entire corridor of their ocean’s belt is all about beaches, resorts,” he said.


“But in Nigeria, it looks like some of the places that should have been optimised for beach opportunities have been bought over by corporate interest. Public beaches are no longer available. They have been mortgaged off to private people.

“The small beach fronts that we should even have, we’re trying to put an expressway which is not supposed to be.


“We need to unlock coastal tourism and recreation. Look at how much money the Zanzibars, the Mombasas, the Maldives are making, but because of our poor security network and our lack of vision, we have not been able to unlock our opportunities within our oceanfront.

“We’re not addressing the issue of ocean management from the position of knowledge.”



Onigbinde emphasised the need to create more investments in aquaculture and build sustainable fisheries and aquaculture projects.


“Nigeria is really underinvested in aquaculture and fish is the cheapest and most nutritious source of protein that we have,” he said.

“Sustainability must be critical. What we’re also doing is that we must also build a bit of governance and that means we involve everybody, local organisations and communities. We should have marine protected areas.”


Onigbinde said the creation of the ministry of marine and blue economy is a good move for a start.

He, however, said the ministry appears to be missing out on its priorities.

According to the data analyst, the ministry should see itself as an integrator, and create policies that can aid it connect with other sectors.

“I’ve not heard anything happening in that space. I looked at their budget, they don’t look like they’re serious people. There’s website, they’re trying to do IT… those are things that are easy to move money about,” he said.

“It doesn’t look like people who say this is our policy, this is how we want to dimension our ocean front, we want to connect with the ministry of power to build like an offshore wind programme. There is no reason why Lagos can’t have a 1.5GW off renewable offshore wind. It’s for the ministry itself to see itself as an integrator to agriculture, power, heath, education and being able to connect from a policy standpoint.

“The major problem we need to first sort out is policy and governance. Then how does that sector integrate with other sectors, then how do we harness opportunities in the short term.

“The ministry is a big standpoint but the ministry is not seeing it’s work as in integrator for the entire ecosystem and look at their budget lines, it doesn’t reflect that they are focusing on their priorities which should be policy and integrating other sectors and how they influence them. We’ve gone a year now but I’ve not seen anything solid from that angle.”

In his remarks, Shakir Akorede, BEYA Project lead, said there is a lot of awareness campaign to be done so Nigerians can understand the valuable resources in the country’s water bodies and treat them better.

Akorede called for a partnership between BudgIT and the Nudge Initiative — the organiser of the BEYA Project — for stakeholder engagement and to drive a national dialogue on the subject matter.

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