By Godfrey Bivbere
National Assembly has been urged to speed up the passage of the Maritime Security Agency (MSA) Bill to help curb the incessant pirate attacks along the nationâ€™s coastal waters.
Giving the charge to the law makers recently, the Lagos Pilotage District Berthing Committee noted that the attacks has taken its toll on shipping activities in the country, stressing that the passage of the MSA bill would enable shipping activities to flourish once more.
The Committeeâ€™s Secretary, Mr Stephen Fatomilola, in a statement which focused mainly on the effects of piracies in the nationâ€™s territorial waters, pointed out that all agencies including the Navy, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and security operatives should ensure the successful passage of the bill.
Fatomilola suggested that the agency, if established, should be placed under the supervision of the Presidency. He decried the incessant piracy attacks on ships in Nigerian waters, saying that the last three years had witnessed growing attacks on ships and facilities.
In his words, â€œTheÂ rise in armed attacks have raised much concern, with increasing security threats almost overwhelming the waterways,â€™â€ Fatomilola stated.
He said that the committee would not be wrong to say that agencies saddled with the responsibility to combat piracy should be stripped of their maritime security functions.
Fatomilola said such bodies should be allowed to concentrate on their primary responsibilities of dealing with cabotage matters, developing the shipping industry and overseeing safety standards.
He recalled that on Oct. 30 at about 22.00 hours, sea pirates numbering about 10, armed with sophisticated weapons, attacked a vessel MV Silveretta that was drifting 20 miles off the fairway bouy.
He alleged that the crew members on board made concerted efforts by telephone to reach the maritime security agencies but to no avail, until the pirates made away with cash and other valuable items.
Fatomilola also recalled that on Dec. 11, anotherÂ vessel, MT Trade Wind, was attacked and it petroleum products siphoned and other valuable items carted away.
He also alleged that efforts by the crew to reach maritime security operatives also proved abortive.
Fatomilola said that the attacks had negative effects on the image of the nation, the economy and the global shipping business.
â€œOwners and those who charter vessels are no longer willing to allow their vessels to call at any of our ports and the few ones that call do so at very high freights,â€ Fatomilola stated.
He called for the composition of a Naval Task Force similar to the Military Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta to be solely responsible for maritime security within the nationâ€™s territorial waters.
Fatomilola said the Task Force should be able to put into use Naval boats and otherÂ facilities now available to the Naval authorities.
He added that the establishment of the Naval Task Force should be devoid of government bureaucracy.