Her Excellency, Nigerian High Commissioner to The Gambia Mrs. Esther John Audu (ORG)

His Excellency, The Mayor of Banjul. Mr Abdoulie Bah.

Alhaji Nagogo M.S, Chiroman Wamba, Director- Maritime Services, Federal Ministry of Transport, Abuja.

Captain Abou Jalo, Chief Executive Officer - Atmarship Maritime Consultancy Services, Kotu - The Gambia.

The Chief Executive Officer- Gambia Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Distinguished participants, top management of the Maritime Services Department, Federal Ministry of Transport- Abuja.

Distinguished invited guests.

Ladies and gentlemen of the press.

Assalamulaikum Warahmatullah, I Salute you All.

With much gratitude to God, Creator and Sustainer of all the Worlds, it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to this unique event, holding in The Gambia.

Today we are presenting to you cream of top management staff of the Maritime Services Department of the Federal Ministry of Transport of Nigeria for a Capacity Building Course anchored by Gambian Sailors of International reputation.

This course was initially planned to be held in far away Malaysia, but due to our desire to promote regional cooperation among ECOWAS States, the Federal Ministry of Transport, Abuja approved that it should be shifted here on the Smiling Coasts of The Gambia.

Our choice of The Gambia as venue of this program was further informed by the need to promote closer ties of mutually beneficial economic relations between our two great Countries especially in the areas of Agriculture and Tourism.

Going by the statistics of the World Travel and Tourism Council (www.wttc.org). Gambia is one of the best tourist destinations in the world which receives repeat and return tourist every year. That is to say many tourists that have visited The Gambia before make it a point to keep coming every year and spend their holidays in such a beautiful and peaceful land full of hospitality hence the adage, Gambia is a smiling coast.

There are many areas where Nigeria and the Gambia could cooperate to foster better relations as demonstrated by the recent visit of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan to the Gambia. In the area of Food Security, Nigeria has a lot to benefit from the Gambian agriculture notably fisheries. In a recent report by the Daily Trust newspaper of Nigeria (1st Aug. 2013) The Honorable Minister of Agriculture Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina was quoted lamenting that Nigeria imports fish worth over 611 million US dollars annually , most of the fish import is from China! At this point I would like to pose this as a challenge to the Ministry of Trade and Investments and the business community in The Gambia to consider capturing this huge market. What is the capacity of the Tanji Fishing Village, Bakau Fish Market, St George Fishing Island etc.???

What are we doing when our neighbors and brothers are importing Lady Fish and Tilapia from China?

On The other hand, The World Travel and Tourism Council has been issuing conflicting statistics and unfavorable forecasts about the tourism industry in the Gambia. At one time they said it will decline by 17% in the year 2013 due to world economic disorders. Presently The Gambia relies on tourists largely from Europe and some African countries

Major Academy could assist to diversify and expand the Tourism market to catch in friendly countries like Nigeria and the Arab world.

Going back to our Maritime Capacity Building Course, I am delighted to inform you that the chief facilitator of this program captain Abou Jalo, a distinguished Gambian citizen has rendered immense services to the Nigerian maritime industry for a very long time. He has been to Nigeria several times inspecting ships and ports facilities for various certifications. He interacted with so many prominent Nigerian sailors like Captain Olabode of IMO and maritime administrators like Babangida Aliyu when the latter was the Permanent Secretary Federal Ministry of Transport. Captain Jalo also single handedly started the Gambian Maritime Training Institute in Banjul as a private enterprise. We understand that the government of President Dr. Yahya Jammeh Wishes to build and expand on this initiative for the benefit of all Gambians. So we are here to continue taping from his vast experiences and also develop working relationships with The Gambian Maritime Authorities.

Participants for this program represent an arm of the Nigerian government which supervises all the maritime agencies in Nigeria, namely; NIMASA, NPA, NSC, etc.

Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)
Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA)
Nigerian Shippers Council (NSC)
Maritime Academy of Nigeria,(MAN) Oron

The course is structured to include interactive sessions in a workshop like this, benchmarking visits to the Gambian Ports Authority and Gambian Maritime Authority as well as courtesy calls and site seeing.

Contents of the Course are largely drawn from guidelines issued by the International Maritime Organization (I.M.O) in the form of:
International Safety Management Code(ISM Code) And
Safety of Life at Sea(SOLAS)

These were all carefully Compiled by our team of resources headed by Captain Abu Jalo.

I would like to use this medium to encourage all the participants to make the best use of this opportunity for the benefit of the maritime industry. I also wish to thank His Excellency President Dr. Yahya Jammeh for providing the enabling environment, making programs of this nature possible and putting a smile on everybody's face by his transformational leadership Styles. In the same vein, I wish to extend our gratitude to the Honorable Minister of Transport- Senator Idris Umar for the confidence reposed in our Company- Major Academy Ltd to conduct this program. We look forward to brighter opportunities ahead and service to Nigeria and also Republic of The Gambia.

Your Excellencies, please permit me to raise a word of caution before I conclude this address, access to Republic of The Gambia by air from Nigeria is at the moment very limited, Arik Air operates only three flights a week from Lagos to Banjul and Banjul to Lagos, another airline Asky Airline a subsidiary of Ethiopian Airline operate two tedious flights from Lagos to Banjul calling on all stations, like the London Bakerloo train, in Lagos we call this system Molue.

In conclusion, I wish to announce to this gathering that Major Academy Ltd has been mandated by the famous Kaduna Chamber of Commerce Industry, Mines and Agriculture to present a Special package of goodwill and solidarity to the Gambian Chamber of Commerce and Industry in other to build on the success of this program.

I wish all of us successful deliberations and the guidance of Allah, Amin.

Dr. Bashir Isyaku
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