The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has finally admitted that it cannot discharge its statutory role of ensuring safety 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 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.
In the process of the vessel arrests, about 250 Nigerian seafarers were also reportedly 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.
“NIMASA as an agency does not have the power to bite, but we do that through the Navy. If you want to detain a ship and you don’t place armed men onboard the ship, before you know it, the shop would sail away, especially the foreign vessels, they come into our waters, they perpetrate a lot of evil and they just leave
“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 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.”
Responding, 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 an agency is not shying away from its responsibilities.”