Amidst anxiety among maritime industry stakeholders over the likelihood of the passage of an executive bill which seeks to create a maritime security agency, the ad- hoc committee of the House of Representatives on maritime security and related matters has given kudos to the government for the initiative.
The committee which is led by Hon. Ehiogie WEST-Idahosa did not stop at throwing its weight behind the creation of another maritime safety agency, but equally declared that already the controversial Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS) “is the officially designated Authourity for proper implementation of the International Ships and Ports facility Security (ISPS) code”.
Giving what it called the committee’s mid-assignment report at a media briefing in Lagos last week, Hon Idahosa submitted that the decision of government to sponsor that bill was not only timely, but also worthy of praise.
“We applaud the further decision of the federal government to do what is best for the nation by institutionalizing and professionalizing maritime security in line with global best practices and seeking to expunge all aspects of ISPS code implementation relating to security of ships, ports and heir infrastructure from the enabling law of NIMASA”, he pointed out even as he stressed that he ad-hoc committee’s position is what obtains in other maritime jurisdictions.
Arguing that there is no adequate security on he nation’s waters, Idahosa disclosed that owing to insecurity, there has been a drastic drop in the number of companies that are engaged in fishing and shrimping within the Nigerian territorial and international waters from 250 in 2004 to an all-time low of only 20companies.
“There has been loss of numerous lives and valuable equipment, making the maritime industry unattractive to investors. The total estimated loss to the fishing industry alone is about N15 Billion”, he stated, even as he lamented that Nigeria is equally losing huge revenue to crude oil theft. According to him, between May and June, 2009, Nigeria lost about 1.7mnb/d of crude oil amounting to about US$9Billion. He told journalists that these losses and other identified lapses in the nation’s maritime security arrangements are what informed the decision of his committee to back the creation of a separate agency.
He consequently chided the Nigerian Maritime Administration and safety Agency (NIMASA), the Navy, and the Police for the lapses.
But Shipping Position Weekly can authoritatively reveal that this position has divided both the 16-member committee as well as he House of Representatives.
Our usually reliable sources confirm that even though the ad-hoc committee drew its membership from at least four standing committees including; marine transport, national security and the Navy, there is no consensus in the report.
“The fact that only four members of the ad-hoc committee came to Lagos for the briefing will tell you how the assignment is going on. Besides, it is an ad-hoc committee and not a sanding committee, it is only the standing committees that could make such submission and one expects it to have serious weight in the House”, said a member of the marine transport committee.
Confirming that his committee chairman, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi is member of the ad-hoc committee, the law maker insisted that the House has not taken any decision on the matter.