Cohesion of all government and private sector stakeholders has been described as vital to achieving effective maritime security and prevent crude oil theft within the nation’s maritime domain.
Stakeholder in the maritime industry expressed this at a one day seminar on the ‘Essence of Private Sector Participation in Maritime Security’ organized by the Maritime Reporters’ Congress of Nigeria (MARCON) in Lagos State.
A communiqué issued at the end of the seminar urged agencies like the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS) Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria Navy (NN) and all other government and private sector stakeholders, to forge a common front in addressing the challenge which threatens the country’s over $600 million fishing industry and leads to losses of over N2 trillion annually to oil thieves.
Present at the occasion was the Rector/ CEO of Certified Institute of Shipping, Dr. (REV.) Ogwuashi Favour Alex, FCIS,(speaker) Chairman of the occasion and Founder of NAGAFF Dr. Boniface Aniebonam who was represented by the Deputy National President and Legal adviser to NAGAFF Barr. Fred Akhokia.
Ugbagu Michael who represented the Controller, Nigeria Customs Service, Muritala Mohammed International Airport, Mohammed Abu represented the Controller, Seme border command of the Nigeria Customs Service and Supol K. Nasara who represented the Commissioner of Police, Ports Authourity Police Command.
Guest speaker at the event and Rector, College of Maritime Dr. Alex Okwuashi described the conflicts arising from the implementation of the International Ship and Port-Facility Security (ISPS) code between PICOMSS and NIMASA as unhealthy.
According to Okwuashi, “Maritime Security is best achieved by the blending of public and private maritime security activities on a global scale into an integrate effort that addresses all maritime threats.”
“The suggested national strategy on maritime security should combine a deliberate and co-ordinate effort by the Federal Ministry of Transport (FMOT) through its maritime administration for a security programme and initiative. A national effort involving appropriate federal, state, local government and private sector organizations should also be worked out and governments can then leverage on the capabilities of the joint effort.”
Okwuashi also called on all stakeholders, to broaden their knowledge about the sector through increased maritime domain awareness which he described as a thorough understanding of activities bordering on or associated with the local and global maritime environment which could impact on the environment, safety and economy of a maritime nation.
He added that no agency could do it alone or in isolation of other stakeholder agencies. He also called for increased funding for the Nigerian Navy to refit and procure what he described as ‘first class patrol boats’ for surveillance, policing and enforcement where the need arises.
He said maritime challenges could be viewed from five perspective – economic, political, environmental, technological and security. These challenges include piracy and sea robbery, illegal bunkering and crude oil theft; pipeline vandalism and sabotage; maritime boundary dispute, illegal tapping of petroleum products and crude oil; oil rig capture, hostage taking and oil spillage.
Other challenges mentioned are illegal trafficking in drugs and small arms through the nation’s waters, dumping of toxic wastes, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing, international terrorism, unstable policy and militant violence.
Founder of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), Dr. Boniface Aniebonam who chaired the event described security as an issue of concern.
He listed causes of insecurity on Nigerian waters to include high unemployment, deprivation, corruption, poverty, greed and small arms proliferation.
Represented by Barrister Fred Akhokia, Aniebonam listed corrupt political class as part of the impediment to optimal performance of the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA in the discharge of their maritime security functions.
“Both NIMASA and Navy were set up to confront these challenges and many other maritime problems but they are being hampered by issues like inadequate funding, lack of hardware and equipment, manpower maintenance, training and re-training, indiscipline, corrupt political class and of course topography or difficult terrain especially in the Niger Delta.”
While describing maritime security as capital intensive, Aniebonam also joined in the clamour for increased private sector participation in maritime security.
“Maritime security is capital intensive. Because of the resources at disposal of the government and its ever increasing responsibilities, the need for private participation is very apposite at this time.
“As far back as 2009, the Nigerian Navy was hiring Field Security Vessels manned by naval officers to police the Niger Delta. If this is taken to a higher level, no problem. The interest of the nation must be supreme.
“At a recent dialogue in Lagos, Finance Minister, Ngozi Okonjo Iweala told a gathering of captains of industry that Nigeria losses about $5 million (N800m) daily to oil theft,.
“Her revelation amplified President Goodluck Jonathan’s worry over increasing rate of oil theft and insecurity in the nation’s maritime domain which is having an adverse effect on her economy.”