The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has finally admitted that it cannot discharge its statutory role of regulating shipping operations and providing security in Nigerian waters without the Navy.
This disclosure has confirmed fears of maritime stakeholders and Nigerians in general that the Nigerian Navy have usurped critical functions of NIMASA, as enshrined in the nation’s Merchant Shipping Act.
The Navy in recent times, have overshadowed the apex maritime security agency, under the guise of a Memorandum of Understanding, that enables the Navy operate the agency’s Maritime Guard Command, in contrary to International Maritime Organisation, IMO, standards.
The Navy in recent times, have gone wild in the country’s maritime domain, 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. Hundreds of Nigerian seafarers are currently being detained at various prisons, without NIMASA discharging authority on the matter, as the country’s maritime security regulator.
Speaking with executive members of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria, MARAN, during a courtesy visit to the agency’s Apapa headquarters, the Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, however, said the agency remained on top of its responsibilities, but added that it cannot seize an erring vessel without the Navy helping out.
He said: “What we are doing is to collaborate with the Navy and we have an MoU with the Navy and work within the confines of the MoU. We can’t detain a ship because we don’t have arms. So the Navy bites for us.”
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 stautory 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.”
On his part, the NIMASA boss, who was represented by an assistant director, International Ship and Port Security, ISPS, Captain Elei Green Igbogi, urged Njoku to “follow the right channel by engaging the Public Relations and Maritime Labour departments of the agency, as NIMASA as an agency is not shying away from its responsibilities.”