The controversial Maritime Security Agency Bill has scaled through the mandatory second reading at the House of Representatives, signaling its likely passage at the lower legislature.
To underscore the importance which lawmakers attached to the executive bill, they suspended all House rules on Thursday, December 17, 2009, sitting until past four o’clock in the evening to ensure that the bill was given expedited reading and comments taken from members.
Our correspondent confirmed that during plenary more than 70 per cent of those who spoke supported the establishment of the new maritime security agency. Only two members of the House leadership opposed its creation.
Shipping Position Weekly also confirmed the development from the chairman of the House Ad Hoc committee on maritime security and related matters, Hon Ehiogie West- Idahosa who also boasted that his committee did the hatchet job.
Hon West-Idahosa told our correspondent enthusiastically that once it has been referred, “the mark up will start; of course there will be public hearing.
He also blamed the management of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for allowing proponents of the Bill to have a field day, even as he confirmed that the Ad Hoc committee heard from only one side.
We are going to amend NIMASA bill to remove the security functions, NIMASA should have done something about this long ago, but they refused , hey didn’t give us any document , hey didn’t raise any justification, they didn’t argue.
Hon Idahosa did not spare the immediate past director general, NIMASA, Dr Ade Dosunmu whom he accused of been too lackadaisical. He also blamed both minister of transport, Alhaji Isa Bio and the management of NIMASA for taking the matter too lightly.
“The minister was my colleague in1999, the executive director, Ibrahim Zailani was also our colleague in 2007, both of them ought to have taken advantage of their closeness to the House, but they did not, they never came”, he stressed.
If passed into law, no fewer than 22 statutory functions of NIMASA will be ceded to the new Maritime Security Agency (MSA).
Apart from NIMASA, five other government agencies are likely to lose some of their core functions if the MSA becomes a reality. These agencies include: Navy, Air Force, National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), the National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (NOSDRA) and the Police.
Propose as an inter-agency rapid response paramilitary agency, the MSA will be empowered to carry light arms and will be vested with wide ranging powers including the powers to “ stop, enter, board, inspect, search any ship or craft within the Nigerian maritime zone or territorial waters, demand the production of any license, permit, record, certificate or other document or make copies of or take extracts of such license, permit, record, certificate or other document in relation to matters provided for under this Act”.
The MSA will also have power to enter ports, terminals, jetties and ships to monitor and investigate matters related to maritime safety and security within the nation’s territorial waters.
Shipping Position Weekly also confirmed that the MSA will be charged with the continued coordination of the implementation of certain portions of the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) Convention as well as the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.
Nigeria is blessed with a coastline of 420 nautical miles and 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) within which there is a vast deposit of oil and gas resources with multi-billion dollar investments and maritime infrastructures and facilities
By implication, the Nigeria’s maritime domain covers an area of about 84,000 square nautical miles.
A member of the House who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent last week that the leadership of the House can not be seen to be going against an executive bill from the same Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
“We are members of the same PDP, and this bill is coming from the Presidency, how do you think that we will be going against it, I expect that those who are directly concerned and those who will be affected should rise to the occasion, it is just beginning”, he said.