The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and stakeholders in the maritime sector have jointly opposed proposed amendment of NIMASA Act to establish a Maritime Security Fund.
Their opposition was raised at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration in Abuja last week.
Leading the opposition, Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services, NIMASA, Mr Gambo Ahmed, said the amendment of two sections of the Act would have implications on international regulation on maritime operations.
According to him, amending the NIMASA Act to fund the maritime operations amendment Bill is not necessary as section 3 of the Bill will create a duplication of the collective work in collaboration with international bodies.
The amendment seeks to insert a new section, 17 (2), proposing that one per cent of the maritime fund be subjected to the Maritime Security Fund under section 7 of the Maritime Operations Coordinating Board Act.
The amendment also proposes insertion of new paragraphs – (r) and (s) – in section 22.
Mrs Nfon Usoro, Secretary-General, Abuja MoU on Port State Control for West and Central Africa, said there was need for a synergy between the executive and the armed forces on maritime governance in Nigeria.
She said that it was pre-mature to talk about funding, arguing that NIMASA was not the right body to fund the security fund as it was not a beneficiary of the Act.
According to Usoro, the principle of funding agencies is very clear if it is related to services.
“In the telecommunication industry for instance, the regulated industry pays for the operation of the regulator, and the principle in other areas is that the beneficiaries pay.
“Even, assuming there was nothing intrinsically wrong with the Bill, for the fact that NIMASA is not the beneficiary, the argument falls flat in terms of taking the one per cent from NIMASA.’’
She canvassed the need to clearly define the functions of various agencies in the maritime sector.
“There should be a superintending body that will have to agree on the functions and after agreeing on the functions, then we will be able to determine the cost of operation.
“If you do not determine the functions, it is premature to talk about funding because you don’t know the cost and you don’t know if the one per cent will be sufficient or insufficient,’’ she said.
However, Mr Jide Olumuwa, representative of the Nigeria Association of Master Mariners, said that the existing MoU between NIMASA and Nigerian Navy should be enlarged.
“We observe cross function between NIMASA and Navy with a possible conflict of interest.
“We suggest collaboration and harmony on the issue of marine funding which we believe the house is in a position to mediate,’’ he said.
Earlier, the sponsor of the Amendment Bill, Rep. Henry Nwawuba, said that the need to have a secured maritime environment prompted him to sponsor the bill.
“The dominant effect of a fully secured maritime environment in Nigeria has direct relations with job creation.
“We see that insecurity is costing Nigeria much leakage to what we can potentially achieve.
“If you have a vessel that comes into Nigerian waters and queue up for 10 days before it has an opportunity to discharge, it will leave Nigerian waters to neighbouring countries to do its discharges.’’