Capt Segun Akanbi (Convener, Integrated Seafarers
The alternative is for us to have a dedicated Maritime Security outfit; we should adopt the American standard which is the US Coast Guard. The argument that there would be duplication of functions does not hold water at all, this is because we have the Army; we have the Police, why do we still approve Civil Defence? The insecurity on Nigeria’s coast have lingered for too long, so much funds have been invested into our coastline security and yet the solution is not met.
The entire coast of Nigeria is just 460 nautical miles; it is nothing to be compared with India at 4,059 Nautical miles, 1,350 Nautical miles of South Africa, or 864 Nautical miles of Angola.
Technology have gone beyond patrol boat running all over the coast searching for pirate, it is less effective and not economical friendly, there are various high resolution satellite cameras that can cover over 100 nautical miles with day and night details. Five of this is enough to secure the entire coast. We also need to position some accommodation barges in strategic location that can deploy rescue and interventions to any emerging threat.
We need to involve all merchant ships in security duties as neighborhood watch, they have the local knowledge of the territory and they can assist with regular update.
Capt James Falabi (Merchant Navy Directorate)
Before we start looking at alternatives, let us look at why the NIMASA/ Navy collaboration failed. The Nigerian Maritime Administrative and Safety Agency's scope and span of operation is perfect, but tools of implementation are defective. It is like asking a civil engineer to perform surgery. What is synonymous with NIMASA operative is lack of professionalism; it is the non-committal altitude of the majority of the management staff. Well, you cannot blame them because they are not mariners, they are there to mark time in other to collect salary and take their share of the national cake.
The Navy on their own wants to work, but they lack the necessary skill to function effectively in a commercial environment. Like all the military they are always waiting for orders. Yes, they are Captains with huge military certification but how many times have they cross the Atlantic?
Secondly, there should be another agency that would combine the role of enforcement, security and monitoring of the maritime environment, the agency will complement the Nigerian Navy, and greatly assist our Maritime administration's enforcement, the Maritime Security Agency (MASECA) is the answer
Capt Alfred Oniye (Merchant Navy)
The Nigerian government is just playing politics with maritime security; private guards should be allowed on board merchant ship in order to reduce unemployment and crime on our maritime space.
Capt Adewale Ishola (Master Mariner)
In as much as I support the partnership between NIMASA and the Navy, I still believe that what this country needs is a Coast Guard, if you look at the developed countries, they still have their Navy, they still have the Coast Guard, they both have different roles to play, NIMASA has a lot they are doing, sometimes it seems they are in competition with the Navy and that is where the problems come in, but if we have a Coast Guard which is purely merchant Navy, it is not a military outfit, when it requires military intervention we would invite the Navy because their job is to patrol our waters and make sure we checkmate criminal activities, the only problem is that the Navy do not have enough platform, they are battling with ageing fleets and the finance is not there, and for NIMASA, the patrol boats they have some of them cannot go deep sea, they can only go within the coastal waters and this is not sufficient enough. So if we have a Coast Guard that is empowered to go to sea and patrol our waters, when they need military assistance they would call the navy, or within our inland waters, they call the marine Police, I think we would go a long way.
Mr. John Egesi (NIS)
I think the NIMASA/ Navy arrangement is okay, all they need to do is to still fine tune it. It is like saying that since police have been drafted to catch thieves there should be no thieves, no it is not possible. The position of the government or authority is to devise the standard way to fight them but while fighting them, they need to readjust. I really praise the NIMASA that is trying to bring in experts from the Navy; I think it is a very good idea. People will not stop doing something wrong; the Navy could be a good solution the government needs to put more naval officers and NIMASA officials in the area. Maybe they did not put enough people and also there should be motivation for people involved because these are areas of risk. For an average Nigerian to get a job now is difficult and when they do they won’t like to lose it because of their family sake.
Captain Taiwo Akinpelumi (NISA)
The collaboration between NIMASA and Navy, if they are doing the right thing there might not be any need for private security on the waterways. Getting private security outfit to come and man our waterways is normal. NIMASA and Navy have been collaborating, but what comes out of it. It is just the political will to do what is right. The only alternative way to secure the waterways is for NIMASA to be alert and wake up to their responsibilities and also the Navy to also be alive to their core mandate which is securing our waterways.
Captain Tajudeen Alao (Master Mariner)
Will I wait for someone to defend me if that protection is not there? I believe that whatever we have should be empowered and strengthened in a very robust way; and not the way it is being done now. The thing should be brought to the door step of the stakeholders, because there are many places that NIMASA and Navy cannot reach. There must be volunteer groups, but all of them working together because you cannot allow everybody to carry arms. They have to be controlled, it is a serious business all the stakeholders should be brought into it because it is not giving us good image outside and it is not good for us.
Col Abel Ogah (Rtd) (Master Mariner)
It is not like the collaboration is not working; it is just that when there is no person to be held responsible for a particular thing it becomes difficult to ascertain the success of that thing. When two people are doing the same thing, it is difficult to ascertain who is doing the right thing. The collaboration between the Navy and NIMASA are still there, they have naval personnel at NIMASA; they are called Maritime Guard Command. And they are collaborating in the area of the security.