By Godwin Oritse
THE Senate Committee on Marine Transport and its counterpart at the House of Representatives are currently locked in horns over the controversial Maritime Security Agency (MSA) bill which recently passed its second reading.
While the Gbemi Saraki led Senate Committee on Marine transport wants nothing to with the proposed bill which may water down the functions and powers of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the West Idahosa led Ad hoc Committee on maritime security has thrown its weight behind the bill.
The bill which is an executive one, is also being sponsored by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) is currently getting an accelerated legislative process.
While the Senate Committee on marine transport has decided not to join issues with proponents of the bill, the Idahosa led Ad hoc Committee has said thatÂ the agencies and institutions inÂ charge ofÂ maritime security matters are not capable of protecting the nation’s marine environment .
According to the Chairman of the Ad hoc Committee, submission of memoranda from stakeholders and the general public illuminated the problems confronting the security of the maritime environment in Nigeria.
The Ad hoc Committee in a press briefing in Lagos said that â€œthe decision of the Federal Government to sponsor a Bill for an Act to establish the Maritime Security Agency to promote maritime security and for related purposes (HB312) is not only timely but worthy of praise.
â€œHopefully, the maritime Security Agency when fully legislated upon, would give great impetus to the need for a fully and effectively secured national maritime zone.
â€œAlready, the Presidential Committee on Maritime Security (PICOMSS) is the officially designated Authority for the implementation of the ISPS codeâ€
While the Ad hoc Committee is fully in support of the establishment of the MSA, the Senate Committee on marine transport is vehemently opposed to the idea as it is also sponsoring a bill to bring about the establishment of a National Coast Guard which is also meant to function like the MSA that is being proposed.
Besides the opposition by the Senate Committee, a group under the aegis of Maritime Industry Initiative Advocacy (MAIN) has also kicked against the passage of the bill saying that it will be counter productive.
The group of the opinion that the bill will lead to duplication of NIMASA’s function suggesting that NIMASA should be further empowered to ensure better secured and safer marine environment.
Speaking to Vanguard on the proposed public hearing of the bill, a member of the House of Representative Committee on Marine Transport Honourable Lanre Agoro said that the bill has been debated and has also been referred to Committee.
Vanguard however gathered that the office of the NSA and proponents of the MSA bill are pushing for a secret hearing since the issue at stake has to do with security.
The House of Rep Committee on marine transport has said that it will not entertain any form of secret hearingÂ since the matter being discussed has to do with members of the public.
The bill if passed into law will changed the entire nomenclature of NIMASA as its Act will be amended to bear a new name
When Vanguard called the Chairman of the House Committee on Marine Transport Honourable Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi said that he could not talk at the time of the call, but promised to get back to the reporter as soon as he was through with a meeting he was attending.