The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Temisan Omatseye paid a courtesy visit to Vanguard’s corporate headquarters in Lagos recently where he fielded questions from some of the Editors.
You talked about quick wins and legacy projects, indeed you identified two quick win projects, what is the legacy project are you currently involved in?
The issue of legacy are thing we can do, leave behind and time will tell. One of the things we want to do this year is that we need to have total maritime domain awareness. Effectively, what I expect is that any vessel that come into Nigerian waters, we must be able to identify them.
We must be able to identify them, locate them and know who they are and this very key because there are face two challenges we face.
The issue of insecurity, you have vessels coming here illegally lifting Nigerian product illegally and most times we do not know who they are or what they are. Secondly, we have the issue of illegal poaching, vessels are coming in from China and other places doing a sweep of the Gulf of Guinea and catching out the reserves in our waters. The same people, who take away the reserves of the nation’s waters, also instigate the pirates to attack our people involved in the fish trawling business.
We know what is gong o, what need to happen is that the water we are patrolling is over 84,000 square Nautical miles, eyes cannot see, but the equipment will allow us to see those kind of things. That is why we are developing what we call our maritime high way which will give us a total domain awareness of what is going on in our waters so that we can track whatever is going on.
Secondly, it is unacceptable the level of pollution these oil companies are causing on our waters, these equipment will also allow us to track who and what is causing the pollution and carry out the necessary fight against these people. They have destroyed the livelihood of our people, and this has led to more crisis and we need to begin to stop this.
It is not fair to destroy their livelihood and use whatever resources they collect from Nigeria to develop their nation, that is my challenge, those are the kind of passion that I fight against because at the end of the day when I eave this place I am going to go back to Koko or Sapele or Warri and only God knowsÂ if I am going become a fisherman so at least let me clean the waters so there can be fish for me to catch.
There is this issue of NIMASA not being able to leave up to expectation in terms of securing the nation’s waters and making it safe and there is a move to set up another agency to tackle the issue of security of Nigerian waters, how will this affect your projects and programmes?
When we talk about the issue of the Maritime Security Agency Bill, sincerely speaking, we on this side are an agency of Government and we also realized that the Bill which is in the National Assembly right now is an executive Bill. We must also realized that sometimes in Government the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing and it is very much on us to bring to the knowledge of government .
Firstly, where is NIMASA, NIMASA was formed in 2007 by the virtue of the defunct National Maritime Authority (NMA) and JOMALIC. NIMASA became a regulatory Authority in 2007, NIMASA has had three (3) Directors-General between since 2007, .NIMASA has not a constantÂ transformation from becoming a revenue collecting Agency and labour organization to becoming a regulatory institution as it is right now .
So we have not been given that opportunity. In addition, the funds which we could use to buy the platforms have not really been given to us. Those funds have been given to somebody else which I am you can find if you wish.
So we have not had the money to buy the kind of hardware with which we need to patrol the waters.
We have seen the MSA Bill; the Bill basically is a photocopy of the NIMASA Act.
Our position on this matter is that we cannot face up to government, but we will try to make them realized that the issue that are being raised are actually encroaching on the powers that be and it has a lot of international implications. We are not fighting to defend a body called NIMASA, but we are fighting to defend the integrity of our nation Nigeria because there are so many conventions of which Nigeria is a signatory to,Â of which Nigeria has domiciled in NIMASA and this could cause a lot of confusion in the International Maritime Organization (IMO), that is our position..
And we at NIMASA feel that there is room for everybody to be accommodated if there are issues.
On the issue of insecurity, yes we admit it, security agencies I do not think NIMASA should take the full blame for it have not lived up to expectation .
Our waters are too porous, and the kind of level of attack that is happening to vessels outside are being perpetrated by people who speed boats and harass vessels on the Lagos anchorage and these are things we can actually shut down.
The point we are making is that we have the maritime guard command here and when they sit at NIMASA they sit as a coast guard because you know the issue of the IMO on the Navy not being allowed to board commercial vessels, so the moment the National Coast Guard sit with us the enforcement capabilities falls under the maritime administration, that is why we some search and rescue boats, we have marine pollution boats, but we do not have the boats that are fast enough to engage these criminals. We have placed orders for the purchase of these fast boats; once we have this we can start the level of penetration.
Our helicopter is faulty right now, let us be sincere about what happened, I will tell you the truth, I have investigated. The helicopters were bought for search and rescue operations and we do not have much of such operations.