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Navigating Legal And Institutional Frameworks For Blue Economy: Nigeria’s Struggle


Aug 20, 2023

The forefront countries in the implementation of the blue economy concept, namely the Republics of Ireland, Seychelles, and South Africa, offer valuable insights to potential blue economy implementers. These insights encompass the necessity of a well-defined blue economy policy, robust legal and institutional frameworks, effective maritime security, and accessible marine and maritime data, among others.

This piece delves into two of these lessons: blue economy legal and institutional frameworks, shedding light on their interconnected nature, the role of blue economy policies, and their application in practical scenarios.

Blue economy policies outline the strategic direction for coastal nations (even landlocked countries can develop such policies within the framework of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, Articles 71 and 87) to achieve sustainable development from their ocean resources.

Initiatives like the 2012 Harnessing Our Ocean Wealth (HOOW) policy in the Republic of Ireland, the Blue Economy Strategy Roadmap Implementation (BESRI) in Seychelles, and South Africa’s Operation Phakisa policy have paved the way for establishing comprehensive blue economy regimes. A common principle across these policies is the emphasis on Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) as a central component of operational blue economies. The finer details of MSP will be explored in subsequent editions.

In Nigeria, the maritime economy mainly revolves around shipping and fisheries. However, there’s currently a lack of cohesive policy bridging these sectors under a maritime economy regime. Existing policies such as Nigeria’s outdated shipping policy and the Agricultural Promotion Policy, which focuses solely on agriculture excluding fisheries, highlight the disjointed nature of maritime policies.

The National Fisheries Development Committee (NFDC) and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) operate in isolation from each other, preventing coordinated ocean economy development. This fragmentation contradicts the essence of MSP, which aims to unite maritime stakeholders for sustainable ocean development and economic progress through a shared policy direction. The convergence of policy goals then translates into the legal and institutional frameworks required to drive national blue economy strategies.

Legal frameworks for the blue economy encompass legislative measures to establish a balanced, three-dimensional (economic, environmental, and societal) approach to development. The Republic of South Africa, for example, introduced the Ocean Act and Integrated Ocean Governance regime to formalize Operation Phakisa as a crucial part of its national development plan.

This move generated significant employment and investments. Similarly, the United States amended the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act to support long-term fisheries sustainability. This amendment, despite its potential drawbacks, contributed to sustainable growth in the US ocean economy. For Nigeria to establish a robust blue economy, it’s crucial to update obsolete maritime legislations to align with present-day ocean sustainability needs.

Institutional frameworks for the blue economy encompass administrative and operational maritime entities established via legislative frameworks to achieve sustainable development goals. Seychelles’ creation of the Blue Economy Department (BED) and South Africa’s Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME) for Operation Phakisa exemplify effective coordination and accountability mechanisms. Nigeria, however, faces challenges due to its diverse maritime institutions operating independently and lacking coordination. This results in inefficiencies and budgetary strain.

A way forward for Nigeria involves establishing a comprehensive blue economy policy through a collaborative effort among maritime, economic, and ecological experts. This collective, known as the Blue Economy Implementation Strategy Team (BEIST), would conduct engagements to gather input from various stakeholders, including governmental and non-governmental bodies. The BEIST would then draft a Blue Economy Bill (BEB), incorporating the establishment of a Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) authority, a coordinating body responsible for supervising all blue economy stakeholders. This authority, led by an experienced maritime professional, would ensure effective coordination and advancement of Nigeria’s blue economy.

In conclusion, lessons from leading blue economy countries underscore the significance of well-crafted policies and integrated legal and institutional frameworks. By aligning policies, laws, and administrative structures, nations can pave the way for a sustainable and thriving blue economy, capitalizing on their marine resources while fostering environmental and societal well-being.

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