Whoever Is Against Establishment Of Coast Guard Is An Enemy of The Nation – Merchant Navy
The Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Merchant Navy have disagreed over the establishment of Nigerian Merchant Navy Coast Guard in the country.
Shipping Position Daily recalls that the Nigerian Coast Guard Bill has been an issue of debate since 2018 when it was sponsored by Hon. Daniel Reyenieju of the Peoples Democratic Party from Delta state.
The law maker had stated that the sole objective of the bill is to secure the safety of Nigerian coastal and inland waterways. He said that, the bill, if passed into law, is expected to go a long way in stemming the high tide of sea piracy on water ways and as well serve as a means of employment for thousands of unemployed Nigerian youths. Similarly, the bill if passed into law is expected to drastically reduce the astronomic level of vandalism occasioned on Nigerian waterways and high sea.
However, three years after the first reading, the bill is yet to see the light of the day, this is even as the Nigerian Navy and Merchant Navy have exchanged words over the establishment of the Coast Guard.
A former Chief of Policy and Planning and Former FOC Navy Training Command (NAVTRAC) of the Nigeria Navy (rtd) Rear Admiral Godwin Ombo had emphatically stated that the current coast guard bill at the National Assembly will not see the light of the day.
Ombo, in an exclusive chat with our correspondent informed that the function of the Navy is the same as the Coast Guard and as such there won’t be need to have a Coast Guard, while stating that globally the Navy has three roles to play which are Military, Policing, and Diplomatic.
On the policing role, he said the Navy has two functions which are: Coast Guard and Nation-building; he stated that Coast Guard is a mandatory function for every Navy.
According to him, “the Coast Guard is principally the Job the Navy does everywhere in the world. “Navy, depending on the size, is called a Navy. A Coast Guard, depending on the size, is also called Coast Guard. So you either have a Navy or a Coast Guard in your country.
“The reason why the US has both the Navy and Coast guard is because the US Navy is a global Navy. Their responsibilities are global. The US Coast Guard is the one responsible for the homeland defence of the US and they do Coast Guard duties.
He said: “On the Diplomatic role, I can give you a typical example. In Gambia, a political situation came up where the President had been sworn-in and the other did not want to leave. The Nigerian Navy sent a vessel, the vessel did not need to enter Gambia. They just stayed at sea. The presence of the vessel at sea was enough to tell them that they must behave themselves. That is a diplomatic role.
“The Policing function of a Navy is two which are Coast Guard and Nation building. It is a statutory responsibility even in the Nigerian Constitution and the Defence Policy of this country. That is the mandated job for the Nigerian Navy.
The Country, over the years has not been able to give the Navy all it needs to do all the functions she has given it. It deals with internal security and all that. Then if the Navy has been Policing, the role of every Navy including the Nigerian Navy is the Coast Guard and Nation building. Nation-building performing that role for the past 68 or 69 years, then you are saying that the Navy no longer exists or you give it another job and then you take the Coast Guard function off the Navy and create a Coast Guard. If you create a Coast Guard today, will they be able to be as good as the Navy that has been there for 69 years? “
Taking on the proponents of Coast Guard, the retired navy officer said: “They call Coast Guard without knowing what a Coast Guard job entails and they forget to realize that it is a mandatory function for every Navy to do Coast Guard function. That is principally the Job the Navy does everywhere in the world”
“The Bill will not see the light of the day. That is what I know; I don’t need to think about it”, he assured.
However, reacting, a maritime security expert and secretary general, Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MSAN) Capt Alfred Oniye, alleged that whoever is against the establishment of Coast Guard in Nigeria is an enemy of the country.
He said, there are over 6000 creeks in the back waters which require attention and Policing, even as he noted that creation of the Coast Guard will create jobs for jobless seafarers in the country who are already exposed to the sea.
“Anybody that is against the establishment of Coast Guard in this country is an enemy of this country, is Nigeria too small to have a Coast Guard? America, as big as they are, have US Coast Guard, they have the US Navy seal and even private maritime securities that carry arms”, he stated.
According to him, “our territorial waters is so porous, the back waters is so porous, the Nigerian Navy cannot be the security at the inland and at the back waters. Why do you think we cannot have a passenger boat that will take you from Lagos to Lokoja; because it only takes you four hours to get to Lokoja, if you are to go through the sea, it takes you only 45 minutes from Lagos to Ondo it is because of insecurity. When we have Coast Guard, they will take care of that, don’t forget that ISPS Code does not cover our back waters and so establishment of Coast Guard will reinforce security at the back waters, don’t forget that pirates don’t stay at sea, they only operate at sea and come back to the back waters and stay.
“And if our waters are not secured, how will you create an enabling environment for investors to come in. Who wants to invest in an industry that is porous? The establishment of the Coast Guard will create jobs for our teeming seafarers who are without jobs, many of them are already exposed to sea, all they need is to be trained on how to handle arms in one or two months and they are okay, when you have an enabling environment, investors will come in”.
“Do you know we have over 6000 creeks in Nigeria, from Ikorodu to Badagry we have over 120 and these are not Nigerian Navy jurisdiction. The Nigerian Navy is just trying to cover those areas because we don’t have those who will cover those areas” he said.
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