• AKHIGBE: The military only wants to corner the resources in the maritime industry
• MFON USORO: NIMASA Act transferred PICOMSS responsibilities to NIMASA
Speaker after speaker, individual and corporate members of the maritime industry last week vehemently opposed the Maritime Security Agency bill, even as the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) became the lone voice in the controversial move to decimate the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Venue of the drama was one of the hearing rooms at the House of Representatives, national Assembly where the House committee on marine transport had invited stakeholders for a public hearing on the bill.
First to speak was the representative of the National Security Adviser Colonel Gabriel Musa (rtd) who gave an insight into how the bill came up. According to him, it was the National Security Adviser who sent a memo to the President on NIMASA Act and according to him, on the strength of that memo government decided that every aspect of the law which relate to security and the implementation of the International Ships and Port facility Security (ISPS) code should be expunged from the NIMASA Act.
According to him, the nation’s territorial water is replete with monumental tragedies. The reason for the proposed agency is to address the monumental tragedy.
After the presentation which apparently did not go down well with the large turn out of maritime sector players, the stage was set for a bombardment by the various groups which had thronged the hearing room.
Those who attended in their personal capacities included: former chief of general staff, Admiral Mike Akhigbe (rtd), former director general, National Maritime Authourity, Mr Ferdinand Agu, former director general, NIMASA, Mrs. Mfon Usoro,
The bulk of stakeholders came from corporate bodies and they included the chief of Naval Staff (accompanied by a high-caliber team of senior officers), permanent secretary, federal ministry of transport, Mr Adeyemi Olayisade, director general, NIMASA, Mr Temi Omatseye, managing director, Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA), Port Consultative Council, Maritime Industry Advocacy Initiative, Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, maritime lawyers and a host of others.
While admitting that the nation’s maritime security apparatuses are inadequate, the permanent secretary however picked holes in the argument that the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS) has done well to qualify to transform into a maritime security agency, saying that “PICOMSS has not been able to fill the gap”.
Outlining the position of his ministry, he consequently recommended that rather than create a new agency, the Memorandum of Understanding between Navy and NIMASA should be strengthened, even as he pointed out that the International maritime Organisation which Nigeria is a member of does not recognize military organizations.
According to him, “the Maritime Security Bill was not a product of conventional collaborative efforts of all relevant stakeholders. It is too general, contains ouster clauses, duplications and does not take other existing and relevant legislations into consideration”.
The position of NIMASA which was also bought – into by majority of the stakeholders is that the bill is almost entirely a duplication of the agency’s responsibilities as enshrined in both the NIMASA Act, 2007, the Merchant Shipping Act, 2007 and the Cabotage Act, 2003.
Speaking in the same vein, Mfon Usoro argued that PICOMSS have no basis to be in existence, because according to her, the NIMASA Act of 2007 has transferred all PICOMSS responsibilities to NIMASA, even as she stoutly opposed the creation of a Maritime Security Agency.
Apparently speaking from experience, Admiral Akhigbe told the gathering that those who are clamoring for the creation of a maritime security agency are doing so because of their closeness to the presidency.
According to him, the military only wanted to corner the resources of the maritime sector through the proposed agency. Everybody wants to be at sea without thinking of the responsibility.
Appealing to the lawmakers to drop the bill, the former number two man argued that the proposed agency will only create more problems for the country in general.