While signing – off in 2009, we submitted that it was a year that would be remembered for its goodness and some degree of ‘badness’. Without mincing words, last year brought more goodness than the opposite!
If not for the nation’s poor rating on the piracy scale as being second only to Somalia, 2009 would have ended as a very glorious one for Nigeria. Remember, we had a relatively peaceful year compared to the previous years; there weren’t industrial unrests, there was no major upset (except for the change of guards at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency), the nation also pocketed a second term ticket at the International Maritime Organisation. The global economic meltdown and a more organized port system collectively accounted for the absence of the traditional port congestion for which Nigerian ports have been known for decades.
Perhaps, the two darkest spots in the nation’s maritime landscape in 2009 were sea robbery and the continued lamentations of indigenous ship owners who had to at a point take their destinies into their hands by arresting some foreign flagged ships for allegedly violating dictates of the Cabotage Act.
In 2009, Nigerian coast was labelled as one of the worst in Africa; second only to lawless Somalia. According to the International Maritime Bureau, “whilst Somalia is, rightly, getting a lot of media attention for its piracy problems, a worrying trend is emerging off the coast of Nigeria. We have noted a higher level of violence in attacks off Nigeria than any other region in the world.” Apparently not satisfied with what the Nigerian government is doing, the bureau had submitted in its end of 2009 report that “Nigerian coast is the worst in the world” and that majority of the piracy attacks are unreported.
However, we, as a maritime media organisation are quite optimistic and at the same time apprehensive about the fate of Nigerian maritime sector in 2010. Our optimism is based on the score card of some key institutions and the likely consequences of their actions.
We eagerly await the passage of the much-expected Port Act Amendment bill which incorporates the Independent Port Regulatory Commission (IPRC) Bill by the National Assembly. The Bill enjoys an unenviable record of being the most delayed and the most controversial legislation since the return to democratic rule in 1999.
When passed into law the new Ports Act will warehouse technical regulation of the post-concession port system in the Nigerian Ports Authourity (NPA), while commercial regulation will become the responsibility of the new agency.
While commending efforts of members of the National Assembly, we strongly appeal that Nigerian lawmakers; especially members of the committees on marine transport should work more assiduously to pass the bill and put the mind of everyone at rest.
When this newspaper broke the news of the plans by the presidency to float a new agency that would be saddled with the responsibilities of providing security on the nation’s territorial and inland waterways most industry stakeholders did not believe while the few that believed did little or nothing to prevent it
Architects of the bill have gone very far and have ensured that it scales second reading at the lower legislature.
We are worried, not because of the possibility of getting the bill passed, but we are concerned about the apparent lackadaisical attitude of stakeholders to the campaign that is going on.
We think that as much as it true that the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) which the proposed agency is expected to snap some responsibilities from can not openly opposed the bill, it behoves on stakeholders to rise to the occasion and offer a helping hand to help NIMASA secure its empire which is about to be decimated.