Following increased report of pirate activities off and within Nigerian coast, the Nigerian Institution of Marine Engineers and Naval Architects (NIMENA) has called for the establishment of a separate maritime outfit in form of a maritime coast guard.
Speaking at the 7th Annual Conference and Annual General Meeting of the institution, its National Chairman, Engr Henry Unuigbe lamented that maritime security around the Gulf of Guinea has attracted global attention, adding that the situation in Nigeria is very alarming.
He lamented that incidences of piracy, kidnapping, hijacking and theft on Nigerian waters have been recurring and its negative impact is making Nigeria an unattractive destination for ships, resulting in rejection and diversion of Nigeria-bound cargoes to other destinations as well as increase in cost of transportation of cargo.
Unuigbe said Federal Government must put in place robust maritime security architecture to tackle the menace of insecurity and that in doing this, parochial interests must be eschewed and put the interest of Nigeria first.
"We recognize the efforts of the Nigerian Navy in ensuring security in the maritime corridor. However, the situation remains unabated as security incidences are continuously being reported. if this has become insurmountable, Nigeria should perhaps consider the views of those advocating for a separate Maritime Coastguard"
"There is nothing wrong with having a coast guard, the Navy is to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria, but this is not the exclusive preserve of the Navy, just like the army is protecting land borders from external aggression, so is the Navy"
"Other agencies need to play a complementary role on the water, just like on the land where we have the police, whenever they are overwhelmed, they call-in the Nigerian army, this structure should also be adopted on the waters"
"If it takes the establishment of a Coast Guard or any other agency to be able to stem the challenges of Maritime Security, so be it, we support it”, he posited.
The NIMENA president also said that the dearth of the steel sector as well as epileptic power supply in Nigeria has contributed to lack of investment in ship building and ship repair yards in the country.
According to him, there is insufficiency of ship repair yards in Nigeria, compared to other landlocked countries whom he said are doing better than Nigeria that is blessed with maritime resources.
He argued that without adequate and suitable repair yards, shipowners will have no choice than to continue taking their ships outside Nigeria for their maintenance and in most cases at a relatively higher cost.
He noted that Nigeria economy suffers as a result of such diversion.
"Government does not necessarily need to invest in shipbuilding, all they need to do is create the right environment, in order to talk about shipbuilding, you must get the power sector right, you must get the steel industry right, these are the essential components of ship building"
"As at today, our steel industry is in comatose, so is the power sector, so right policies needs to be in place"
"Nigeria cannot shy away from shipbuilding as its benefits are unimaginable. Continuous neglect of the shipbuilding sub sector will not augur well for our dear nation", he warned.