The Federal Government has raised alarm that the Nigerian maritime industry has come under siege from criminal elements who perpetuate various maritime crimes on the nation’s territorial waters.
The government however noted that ensuring security on the waterways is beyond the capacity of one country or any existing regional body acting alone.
Speaking yesterday in Lagos at the 2018 World Maritime Day celebration tagged ‘IMO 70: Our Heritage, Better Shipping For the Better Future’, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF); Mr Boss Mustapha said the nation's maritime industry must be protected from criminals to attract foreign investors and also preserve Nigeria‘s territorial integrity.
Mustapha who was represented by the Minister of State for Power, Works and Housing; Mr Mustapha Baba Shehuri said insecurity and maritime crime on the nation's territorial water has eroded the gains of the port concessioning, dredging of the nation’s water channels as well as the amnesty programme that was embarked upon by the Federal Government.
He also said that has piracy and other maritime crimes have forced shipping companies to seek government's approval to enter Nigeria’s territorial waters with onboard armed security men.
"The maritime industry in Nigeria and globally has come under siege by criminal elements who orchestrate acts of piracy, sea robbery, arms proliferation, crude oil theft, terrorism, migration, illegal and unregulated fishing and oil theft in the Gulf of Guinea and within Nigeria's territorial waters.
"The gains recorded via dredging, amnesty and port concession exercises in Nigeria nosedived due to this unfortunate scenario thus compelling some foreign shipping companies to request for Government’s approval to enter Nigeria’s territorial waters with armed security personnel onboard."
"Maritime crime is an organized one with elements all over the world. We must therefore drum up the need for regional and sub-regional collaboration at IMO meetings and at other fora, for integrated maritime security strategies in addressing the challenges of insecurity. The maritime domain is vulnerable and ensuring its security is certainly beyond the capacity of one country or any existing regional body acting alone."
"Thankfully, the Government is not taking the issue of safety and security in the Maritime sector lightly. Like the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg, the maritime industry must be protected to attract foreign investors and also preserve Nigeria‘s territorial integrity.
Mustapha however commended the Federal Ministry of Transportation for confronting the piracy scourge with the award of lntegrated National Security and Water Protection Infrastructure in Nigeria under the Deep Blue Project.
Speaking on the lntegrated National Security and Water Protection Infrastructure in Nigeria under the Deep Blue Project, the SGF said “it entails the provision of security infrastructure and training of personnel for the protection of Nigeria’s maritime domain. lt is envisaged that this project will comprehensively address the emerging cases of insecurity in the maritime industry and restore investors’ confidence."
Speaking earlier, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi also acknowledged for as long as illegal activities go on in the nation's territorial waters, the benefits of shipping will keep eluding Nigeria.
Amaechi said, "It is worthy to note that for effective contribution of shipping activities to the development of Nigeria’s economy, there is urgent need to curb and combat these illegal maritime activities in our waters as these crimes continue to constitute impediments to economic development.
"As long as these crimes continue to pose danger to the Gulf of Guinea and our maritime domain, the benefits of the theme of this year’s World Maritime Day celebration will continue to be elusive”, he said.
The former governor of Rivers State further stated that a safe, secure and efficient shipping industry will surely revitalize and diversify the economy of Nigeria away from crude oil exploration to a maritime hub.
"The importance of ensuring a safe maritime domain cannot be over emphasized. A safe, secure and efficient shipping industry will surely revitalize and diversify the economy of Nigeria away from crude oil exploration to a maritime hub”.