By Yemie Adeoye
AS the nation prepares for the 2011 general elections and fear of political motivated violence, the Federal Government has been urged to ensure the proper formation and recognition of an autonomous Merchant Navy to serve as the nationâ€™s coast guards.
Commodore Aderemi Olatinwo, a Master Mariner and Director-General of the Nigerian Merchant Navy made this call in an interview with Vanguard, weekend, at the Merchant Navy Academy in Ogun State.
Olatinwo stated that this has become necessary given the porous nature of the countryâ€™s coastline and the continuous circulation of arms whenever elections are around the corner, even as he urged the government to ensure a quick passage of the bill if it is interested in curbing the menace of crude oil theft on our waters.
â€œOf all the coasts in the whole world, Nigeria is the most porous! Flying boats move out ofÂ our waterways unchecked, tugs go out unchecked, they would say they are doing some things and even come back unchecked.
That is why you have so many influxes of both arms and contraband items of all sorts. Apart from the ones they cover in containers which the Nigeria Customs is trying to uncover. To some extent, Customs is trying, but they cannot monitor the totality of the coast, at the border, yes, they try but there are some that are not actually through the main port that they discharge using small boats to take in. What are we doing about those?
“It is so unfortunate that our political class are somehow involved in arms proliferation, especially whenever an election is approaching. I donâ€™t need any arms, I am not contesting any election, I am not fighting any war with anyone, and I donâ€™t have any shady deals. I donâ€™t need much money to survive. This is the function of the Merchant Navy.
I have already told you that when vessels are coming in they will declare their cargoes and these cargoes will be subjected to inspection.Â Even toxic wastes, There is a point where they will anchor first for this inspection and carrying out this inspection, you will be able to reduce the influx.â€
Speaking the Master Mariner stated that the Merchant Navy is partially recognised by the constitution. â€œEven if you may not find it in the constitution, it should be noted that by Act of parliament, they made various references to Merchant Navy, even in the establishment of Maritime Academy Oron, where they can train Merchant Navy officers.
You can not put an Act and refer to an institution called Merchant Navy and turn around to say that institution does not exist. If government sets up an institution and says the Act provides for them to train Merchant Navy officers, then it simply means Merchant Navy is in existence and is recognised!
â€œIn view of all these, it should be noted that some of us have put all the resources at our disposal to the survival and sustenance of the Merchant Navy Formation, and we would want the federal government in the interest of national security, and the safety of our people to formally announce the recognition of an independent Merchant Navy devoid of any attachment to any Agency.
Some people were saying that the Merchant Navy died with Nigerian National Shipping Line, NNSL, but it must be noted that the Merchant Navy is not synonymous to the NNSL because Merchant Navy has been in existence before the advent of the NNSL. NNSL came into existence in 1958, while Merchant Navy has been in existence before 1958 and even before the Gunnery Navy (Nigerian Navy) came into existenceâ€. He enthused.