The Nigerian Navy and the Ministry of Transportation on Monday in Abuja disagreed over who should be in control of the proposed Hydrographic Agency.
The disagreement came up at a one day public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Navy on a bill for an act to establish Hydrographic Agency in the country.
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.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Mrs Magdalene Ajani, noted that the bill projected the agency as a wing of the Nigerian Navy.
Ajani added that the proposed bill had inadvertently skewed the agency in favour of the Nigerian Navy where the civilian working would be subservient to the Navy.
According to her, the ministry observes that there seems to be apparent militarisation of the proposed agency as the proposed bill situated the primary responsibility of the agency 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 stressed that the bill sought to cede the agency’s power to the Navy, adding that such move could be detrimental with negative consequence and further create undue rigidity.
Rear Admiral Chukwuemeka Okafor, who represented the Chief of Naval Staff, said that it would be a huge national security mistake to domicile the agency’s responsibility in the hands of the civilian.
He stated that most of the maritime security originated from inland water, adding that the civilian would not have the requisite charts to maneuver the water.
Okafor, however, stated that the bill would ensure that the Federal Government derived maximum benefits from its implementation as it would close gap in revenue leakages.
“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.
Rep. Yusuf Gadgi, the Chairman, House Committee on Navy, stated that stakeholders were invited to ensure balance and fairness, adding that the bill was yet to become an act and had not been passed by NASS.
He said that stakeholders were to make suggestions, while enjoined stakeholders to speak like they were making correction and not like NASS had already passed bill.
“We want you to make your input to ensure the bill stand 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.
Another bill being considered for public hearing is a bill for an Act to establish the Nigerian Maritime Trust Fund.
This is for the purpose of Training, Provision of security equipment and related facilities that would enhance the skills of the personnel of the Nigerian Navy.