By Godfrey Bivbere & Godwin Oritse
The House of RepresentativesÂ has thrown its weight behind moves to strip the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) of its maritime security function and the creation of a new body to perform the security function.
Disclosing the position of the House in Lagos Monday, Chairman Ad-Hoc Committee on maritime security and related matters, Ehiogie West-Idahosa, said that the apex maritime regulatory agency has failed over the year to provide security for the industry.
Idahosa also noted that there was need for maritime security to be taken away from the agency and given to a professional body to created.
On the presentation of two bills on maritime security before the National Assemble, he explained that whatever bill finally scale through does not matter but that the nation’s maritime zone is secured.
He however noted the government bill usually takes precedence over that presented by a private citizen.
According to him, â€œNIMASA must now be allowed to concentrate on its primary duties of dealing with Cabotage matters, developing the shipping industry and overseeing the safety measures of the equipment used therein. It appear to have been unable to deal with maritime security issues.â€
He further pointed out that â€œthere is now the urgent need to improve our maritime security technology, identify threats, review security requirements well beyond the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.â€
On the source of funding for the new agency to be created, Idahosa said that there are every likely-hood that NIMASA may shed one percent of its present income which it gets from three percent charges on freight collected from all imports and exports goods.
He said that the important role played by the nationâ€™s economic zone can not be over-emphasised because the countryâ€™s imports/exporst are done by sea; therefore there is no real alternative to securing the zone.
In his words, Some 90 percent of our foreign trade is by bulk shipping. Our offshore oil and gas constitute important elements of our economy and most of it are in our maritime environment.â€ â€œCommercial and subsistence fishing are important sources of both foreign exchange and food for many of our people in the coastline.â€
He observed that the spite of frequent and open attacks along the nationâ€™s coastline in recent time has shown that the security bodies and other government agencies have not been able to meet up with their responsibilities.â€
According to him, â€œFrom all indications, it is obvious that neither the Nigerian Navy, Marine Police nor NIMASA are capable of putting in place adequate security measures to protect our Maritime environment with a coastline of 420 nautical miles and an exclusive zone of 200 nautical miles.â€