The 12 suspects that were paraded by the Nigerian Navy for alleged theft of diesel last week
The Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); Dr. Dakuku Peterside has said that the nature of the nation’s creeks and waterways makes it difficult to fight piracy and other crimes on the nation’s coastal waters.
Speaking last week in Abuja, Dr. Peterside, who admitted that the issue of piracy is a very big challenge to the agency, also said that to fight crimes at the creeks, the nation needs fast intervention boats which he said the Nigerian Navy lacks, adding that the meandering nature of the creeks also poses a very big bottle neck to the fight against sea crimes.
He also admitted that the agency has a working relationship with the Nigerian Navy stressing that the navy supports the agency on enforcement under the maritime guard command.
On the relationship with the Navy, the NIMASA DG said, “we have a working relationship, we have an MoU signed with the Navy 2007 and after 10 years which was in 2017, we renewed the MoU. The MoU deals with three to four dimensional issues. One is the fact that the Navy supports us on enforcement under the maritime guard command where we have some naval men work with us at NIMASA on routine posting. They don’t understand safety issues, and merchant shipping issues, they bring enforcement. Now aside from that we collaborate on a number of issues in the maritime industry. So we have a good working relationship with the Nigerian Navy”.
“Now let’s talk about the issue of piracy, the nature of our creeks and waters makes it slightly difficult to fight piracy in this part of the world with conventional method and strategies. We have elaborate creeks and with fast intervention boats you can go in and out of those creeks. And you know naval vessels are normally big vessels that cannot go into some parts of the creeks and now aside from that, the massiveness of those creeks and the meandering nature of the creeks is a challenge on its own. If you look at the issue of safety of all fronts it is positive apart from the one of piracy and crime time and we are dealing with that”, he said.
According to him, the water pollution is one of the major reasons for the hike in the number of pirates on the nation’s waterways; he added that the agency is doing its best to ensure a total stop of this menace.
He also said that the agency is investing hugely on intelligence and surveillance adding that they have also equipped their response strategy.
“We also have social issues in the Niger-Delta region of the country, even in the deep sea, ours is so peculiar in many ways. The fact that pollution has put a lot of persons out of job in the Niger Delta raised an army of young men that are willing tools to be used by these pirates because they are less busy. The combination of these factors have made the piracy industry thriving, but we are not resting on our oars”
We sat back and re-strategized on what we called a total spectrum maritime security strategy and this is four plugs. The first one is to invest substantially on intelligence and have a clearer picture of what is going on in our environment and we are working closely with the navy. We have our own surveillance system and the navy has their own, even the NPA and all these are closely integrated. So we have done a lot of work in the area of intelligence. The other area we have worked on is the issue of response capability. Now if we try to prevent it and it eventually occurred we should be able to have vessels that will respond to confront these pirates”, he explained.
He said that NIMASA is working on the early passage of the anti-piracy bill to ensure that offenders are properly dealt with.
“The third thing is to put the legal frame work in place, so we are pushing for the early passage of the anti-piracy bill. Before now many people commit crime and get away with it. So we need to domesticate the importance of critical provision of what we call safety of lives at sea that we have pushed far. We have got it approved by the Federal executive Council, it has also been forwarded to the National Assembly and we hope that any moment from now it will be passed into law, so that we can prosecute pirates and those who are involved in crime. The fourth element is working with our regional partners be they the Togolese, Ghanaians and our partners in Central and Western Africa. We are doing a lot on that to see that crime on sea does not begin and end in one territory, it is multi-territorial. So these are a lot of things we are putting in place, we agree that it is a problem the navy has also started a lot of special operations defined to tackle the issue of piracy. Then there is the issue of relationship between piracy and illegal refining and bunkering going on in the Niger-Delta region of the country”