By Bayo Bernard
Following series of denials, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA has finally admitted that it can no longer discharge its statutory role of ensuring safety and providing security in Nigerian waters without the Navy.
The Director General of the agency, Dr Dakuku Peterside made the disclosure while playing host to the executive of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria, MARAN, at the agency’s head office in Apapa.
This disclosure has confirmed fears of maritime stakeholders and Nigerians in general that NIMASA has failed in its statutory function by allowing the Navy usurped its critical functions as enshrined in the nation’s Merchant Shipping Act.
Keen stakeholders in the sector have continued their penchant outbursts against NIMASA’s for allowing the Navy to overshadowed the apex maritime security agency, under the pretext of a Memorandum of Understanding, MOU, that allows the Navy operate the agency’s Maritime Guard Command, in contrary to International Maritime Organization, IMO, standards.
What worries stakeholders the most is that Navy in recent times have been making seizures of vessels allegedly involved in oil theft and other crimes at sea, without involving NIMASA, which has the core responsibility to do same.
“This is a very wrong trend that must not be allowed to continue” a ship owner who does not want his name to be mentioned for fear of intimidation, told the magazine in his reaction to the burning issue.
The magazine learned that 250 Nigerian seafarers are now being detained at various prisons, without NIMASA raising a whimper over the issue.
“NIMASA should discharge authority on the matter, as the country’s maritime security regulator,’ the source said, adding that its silence is tantamount to irresponsibility” on the part of the Dakuku-led agency.
The NIMASA boss has insisted that it cannot seize an erring vessel without the Navy helping out.
Speaking with executive members of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria, MARAN, during the visit to the agency’s , the NIMASA boss however, said the agency remained on top of its responsibilities.
“The seafarers in prison, you are just mentioning that to us now, I will advise that you follow the right channel to address the situation”
“The Navy has their functions clearly defined, the merchant shipping Act is on its own, Nigeria is one country and we are not divided, it is a collaborative effort that builds the house”
“If NIMASA goes away to do something different from what the Navy is doing and we don’t complement ourselves, there would always be friction, but NIMASA has taken the bull by its horn by having an MoU with the Navy, and we work within the confines of that” he said
Earlier, the President of MARAN, Mr Anya Njoku charged the agency on its responsibilities, especially as relates to seafarers welfare and capacity development. Njoku also urged the agency to take the bull by the horns by implementing fully, the country Inland Shipping Act, 2003, popularly known as Cabotage Act, while ensuring that local seamen are not constantly harassed by the Navy at sea, who arrest and detain for alleged oil theft, when the owners of the vessels are not arrested.
“Maritime is an international business and as such, it must be operated in line with international maritime laws, such as the SOLARS, which provides for safety of seamen at sea. A situation, where NIMASA has allowed the Navy to take up a critical part of its statutory responsibility and remain as a lame dog, is worrisome. Many of our seamen, just a small percentage of the larger number of seamen in the country who managed to get job, have landed in prison because the agency which is supposed to protect them has abandoned them.”
The NIMASA boss was represented by an assistant director, International Ship and Port Security, ISPS, Captain Elei Green Igbogi.