A maritime anti-piracy security specialist and Secretary-General of the Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria, Captain Alfred Oniye, has blamed the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for the prevalence of sea pirates and robbers in the country.
According to him, the mass unemployment of trained and certified seafarers is responsible for soaring maritime crimes.
While speaking in an exclusive interview, Captain Oniye told Shipping Position Daily that NIMASA has refused to take the bull by the horn in tackling the challenges and threats of piracy, but only succeeded in training professional sea pirates by refusing to provide job opportunities for certified seafarers.
In his words: “Piracy and insecurity on our waters are created by NIMASA themselves. When you train professionals and you don’t give them jobs, you have tactically trained sea pirates. Every trained and certified seafarer is a potential sea pirate. Being a seafarer is a professional job. It is either you use your skill illegally or legally. I don’t see the Deep Blue Assets as the solution to the problem on ground. NIMASA is supposed to first look at the causes of insecurity in the system. But they are not looking at the causes and they want to solve problems.
“We all know that unemployment is a major reason why we have an increase in insecurity in the maritime system. Instead of you creating jobs you are using the money to invest in one Deep Blue Project, buying fighter jets and you think it will work? You are only going to use the equipment to fight the unemployed seafarers that you turned to sea pirates because you made them unemployed” Captain Oniye said.
Reacting to the high level of competence displayed by sea pirates on Nigerian waters, Oniye said only trained pirates can have the impetus to successfully track and hijack a vessel and its entire crew without being apprehended. He said many of the pirates are unemployed seafarers who are only trying to survive and make ends meet from the pathetic situation NIMASA has pushed them into.
“NIMASA said they have trained close to 3,000 seafarers and they cannot even boast of giving 500 out of them jobs outside the country. The question is where are the remaining 2,500 seafarers and what are they doing? When you look at the way pirate operations are being carried out on our sea, then you will know that these guys are professional to the core. They carry out their operations in a very professional way. Look at the way they operate. They don’t kill their victims. They kidnap them, you pay them and they release their victims. It is called survival.
“How can you fight someone who knows how to track a ship? Someone who knows how to go underwater and burst pipes, someone who knows your vessel position. Is that the person you want to use your fighter jet to fight? I don’t see the solution being provided by NIMASA as the ultimate solution to the problem on ground. Let them create jobs for unemployed seafarers and you will see if the insecurity will not reduce” Oniye noted.
As a better panacea to fighting piracy, the security expert however charged NIMASA to create job opportunities for certified seafarers and create enabling environments in the country for foreign ship-building companies in order to make the Cabotage Act work effectively.
“Use the money you are spending on these assets to create jobs for seafarers. The Cabotage Act says vessels must be built in the country, manned, owned, and crewed by Nigerians. NIMASA should create an enabling environment for these foreign companies to come to Nigeria and start building vessels. Even the Nigeria-owned vessels are not even getting jobs because foreign vessels are taking over their jobs” Oniye concluded.