Can a federal agency with potential for revenue generation be put under the control of the Nigerian Navy? That was the poser that dominated proceedings as the House of Representatives Committee on Navy had a public hearing on a bill for an act to establish Hydrographic Agency.
For the Navy, national security makes it imperative that the envisaged agency be brought under its control. But to the Ministry of Transportation, giving control to the Navy amounts to militarizing the agency.
The proposed agency is to carry out Hydrographic and Ocean graphic survey to support safe, secure and thriving oceans, including Ocean Metrology for National Defence and Civil Requirements.
Mrs. Magdalene Ajani, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, who spoke at the hearing, noted that the bill projected the agency as a wing of the Nigerian Navy.
She stated that the bill had inadvertently skewed the agency in favour of the Nigerian Navy where the civilian working would be subservient to the Navy.
Ajani warned of apparent militarisation of the proposed agency as the bill situated its primary responsibility in the Navy.
She, however, stated that the ministry had a special relationship with the Nigerian Navy from securing the nation’s maritime from external aggression.
Ajani said ceding the Hydrographic Agency’s power to the Navy would be detrimental with negative consequences, creating undue rigidity in its operations.
The representative of the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Chukwuemeka Okafor, in his presentation, anchored their bid to control the proposed agency on security considerations, noting that it would be a huge national security mistake to domicile the agency’s responsibility in the hands of civilians.
He stated that most of maritime security originated from inland water, adding that a civilian would not have the requisite charts to maneuver the water.
“We should not allow our revenue to keep going into the hands of foreigners. The bill seeks to facilitate robust maritime security,” he said.
He said that the agency would place Nigeria in a good place to perform other Hydrographic assignments, adding that Nigeria should be able to produce a chart other mariners could use internationally.
Okafor said the bill would ensure that the Federal Government derived maximum benefits from its implementation as it would close gap in revenue leakages.
In the midst of the heated argument, Yusuf Gadgi, chairman of the House Committee on Navy, reminded the two protagonists that the bill was yet to be passed by the National Assembly.
He said they were invited to the hearing to ensure balance and fairness.
Gadgi said they were to make input, enjoining them to speak like they were making correction and not like federal law makers had already passed bill.
“We want you to make your input to ensure the bill stands the test of time. We will listen to you and the committee will do justice,” he stated.
The Surveyor General of the Federation, Mr Samuel Adeniran, noted that the proposed Hydrographic Agency was a laudable move and in line with the provision of survey coordination Act 2004.
He stated that it was in conformity with international best practices and would be of immense benefits to the country.
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