By AKOMA CHINWEOKE
Stakeholders in the Nigerian maritime sector have condemnedÂ the Maritime Security Bill which proposes to establish a maritime security agency for the country.
At a public hearing on the Bill organized by the House of Representatives Committee on Marine Transport, in Abuja., the Minister of Transport, Alhaji Ibrahim Isa Bio observed that some of the provisions of the bill asÂ drafted were in conflict and a duplication of some existing responsibilities of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA
In its presentation, the Federal Ministry of Transport, submitted that by the provisions of Section 1 (4) of the Armed Forces Act Cap 20, LNF, 2004, the power to enforce Maritime Security is largely vested in the Nigerian Navy while the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA, Nigeria Immigration Service, Marine Division of the Police and the Nigeria Customs Service are also vested with similar powers.
The Minister, whose paper was presented by the permanent secretary, of the ministry, Mr Adeyemi Olayisade noted that the Ad-Hoc Presidential Committee on Maritime Security and Safety (PICCOMSS) set up in 2004 to respond to maritime security exigencies as at that time has not performed its function, adequately adding that the International Maritime Organization,IMO does not support a militarized outfit handling maritime security of any maritime nation.
The minister specifically, listed conflicting sections of the BillÂ with the NIMASA Act to include section 4 which was described as an adoption of section 22 of the NIMASA ACT, section 21 of the Bill which appears to be a replication of section 15 of the NIMASA ACT amongst others.
According to him,â€œ the Maritime Security Bill was not a product of conventional collaborative efforts of all relevant stakeholders. It is too general, contains ouster clauses, duplications and does not take other existing and relevant legislation into considerationâ€. He admitted that the maritime security situation in Nigeria requires urgent attention and urged the Law makers to review the NIMASA ACT in order to empower the agency to effectivelyenforce maritime security.
On its part, the director general, NIMASA Mr Temisan Omatseye also, faulted the Bill noting that his agency at the moment performs all the duties proposed for it in the Maritime Security Bill under the NIMASA Act 2007, Cabotage Act 2003 and the Merchant Shipping Act (MSA) 2007.
In its submission, the Nigerian Navy submitted thatÂ passing the BillÂ will result in undue duplication of functions, wastage of scarce resources and inimical to the interest of National Security.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Iko IbrahimÂ who personally led the Naval team to the public hearing, noted that the Bill which proposes that the agency regulate all bodies engaged in the provision of Maritime Security in Nigerian territorial waters, seeks to usurp the function of the President Commander-in-Chief, Ministers of Defense, Transport, and Police Affairs.
The Chief of Naval staff maintained that the country has adequate legislation and agencies to attain optimum safety and security in the maritime sector, adding that they only require adequate funding to perform optimally.
In his words, â€œmost of the roles and functions proposed for the MSA are the same roles assigned to the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA, Marine Police, Nigerian Ports Authority by the constitution, Nigerian Defense Policy and the Armed Forces Act Cap A20, Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Duplicating these functions will be wasteful, unnecessary and ill-advisedâ€
On its part, the Indigenous Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, ISAN, also called on the Law makers to throw out the Bill on the grounds that it will only further hinder the growth of the sector. According to Captain Labinjo, â€œif you want to create Maritime Security Agency for us in the maritime then, you may also consider creating the Land Security Agency, Rail Security Agency, and the Aviation Security Agency. Honorable members, we say NO to this Maritime security Billâ€.
A former Director General of NIMASA Barr. Mfon Usoro.Mrs Usoro described the Bill as incompetent on the grounds that the Bill does not have provisions for consequential amendments Act, Cost Compendium, Policy and technical grounds while Hon Chris Asoluka described the proposed Agency as â€œone too manyâ€.