Across Nigeria, there are bodies of water that can be exploited, as the blue economy offers a whole new prospect for economic activities, especially in areas close to the ocean. This has become imperative as states look inward to increase internally generated revenue to meet the ever-increasing needs of the masses.
A blue economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, while preserving the health of ocean ecosystems.
It also implies emerging renewable energy, seabed extractive activities, marine biotechnology and bio-prospecting. This is why Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, on January 17, 2022, said through his twitter handle: “The President Buhari’s administration is set to explore the blue economy.” A good step in the right direction – meaning that the intention of the Presidency, with regards to Osinbajo’s statement, is an attempt to key into the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 (life below water). To conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development, and therefore agrees with the global accord to build a sustainable ocean economy.
There is no doubt about the fact that the oceans, seas and coastal areas form an essential component of the earth’s ecosystems and are critical to sustainable development. They cover more than two-third of the earth’s surface and contain about 97 percent of the planet’s water. The oceans also largely contribute to poverty eradication, by creating sustainable livelihoods. The oceans are crucial for global food security and health. They are also primary regulators of the global climate.
Following from the foregoing, the desire of the Nigerian state to explore the blue economy and all that is therein would spur a wide range of economic activities; more particularly in the low-lying areas of the littoral states (Lagos, Ondo, Akwa-Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross-River, Delta, Ogun and Rivers). Some of these littoral states like Lagos and Ondo share coastal boundaries with the Atlantic Ocean.
The coastal ecosystems are diverse; forming a mosaic of interconnected seascapes, which vary latitudinally from the tropics to poles, across intertidal and cross-shelf gradients from land to ocean, and in relation to the amount of tidal and wave energy. The coasts sustain livelihoods for hundreds of millions of people in work that range from artisanal small-scale fisheries and aquaculture to transnational fishing. The increasingly urbanised human societies also depend largely on the coastal resources for energy, food, minerals and pharmaceuticals.
Considering the economic importance of the coastal areas, there is no doubt about the fact that coastal ecosystems are undergoing profound changes, as they are challenged by climate change, threatened by urbanisation and poor upstream agriculture and extractive industry practices; increasing sprawl of coastal infrastructure and over-exploitation of coastal resources.
Consequent upon this, storm surges are becoming more profound and there would be more fatal incursion into the coastal areas and other coastal land formations; destroying the habitat immediately adjacent to the oceans, causing a coastal squeeze and the destruction of intertidal zones, and even land run off, which would further lead to ocean acidification that would then destroy aquatic habitat that ought to be preserved for commercial exploitation and tourism. The challenges of climate change and the worsening of same make it incumbent that, any fresh or new/nascent/emerging development or exploration in any coastal area going forward, must as a matter of necessity, however, through policies, rigorously research and invest in Coastal Resilience.
Undoubtedly, if we do not change the way we manage and adapt our use of coastal environment, there will be profound consequences for the resilience of coastal environments and the communities that rely upon them. A clear and recent consequence is the flooding and destruction that followed in over 30 states in Nigeria, in the month of October.
It’s incumbent on the recently inaugurated “Expanded Partnership Committee on Sustainable Blue Economy (comprising state governors, cabinet ministers, representatives of the military, security agencies and the private sector) to explore the potency of an Integrated Coastal Zone Mechanism that comprises capacity building and knowledge sharing; collaborations and partnerships; innovative financing and an integrated management, such that would develop alternative livelihoods and increase resilience for coastal dependent communities, implement cumulative environmental and social impact assessment and eliminate over-exploitation of coastal resources, among others.
In essence, an Integrated Coastal Zone Management mechanism would do the following: Enhance value by preserving and conserving natural systems; Identify natural hazards and reduce vulnerability; apply comprehensive assessment to the coasts; lower risks by exceeding building standards; adopt successful global practices; adopt market-based development incentives; address social concerns, and protect water resources, according to Ayodeji Olatubora, a lawyer, who writes from Lagos.