By HENRY UMORU & JOSEPH ERUNKE
Abuja—The Senate yesterday, expressed concern over Nigeria’s territorial waters which it noted, had remained stagnant at 200 nautical miles even as some African countries were extending theirs to meet the standard required by the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea, UNCLOS.
To this end, the Senate tasked the Federal Government to commence a process that could lead to the expansion of the country’s international territorial waters from the said 200 nautical miles to a maximum distance of 350 nautical miles as permitted by the UNCLOS.
The Senate directive to the Federal Government came, following the deliberation on a motion tagged: “Urgent funding of the activities of Nigeria’s extended continental shelf project”, sponsored by Senator Emmanuel Bwacha, PDP Taraba and 14 other Senators.
The legislators while contributing to the motion, insisted that the development had both international security and economic implications on the country as Ghana, a neighbouring West African country, was at the verge of extending its territorial presence, noting that it had already inaugurated an independent technical body to handle the extension of its continental shelf.
Senator Bwacha, in his lead debate, had reminded that Nigeria, in 2009 made a submission for an extension of her continental shelf to the United Nations Commission on Limits of the Continental Shelf, CLCS, but regretted that the dream was at the moment, having challenges arising from funding.
He said the submission was aimed at claiming additional maritime territory of up to 140,000 sq km for Nigeria which he noted, was “potentially rich in hydrocarbons, hydrates, ferro-manganese crusts, and other natural resources.
“When approved, it will make a significant contribution to the development of Nigeria economically, politically and security-wise”.
As all the senators who spoke on the issue were unanimous in support. The upper chamber therefore asked the Federal Government to source for funding of the extended continental shelf project outside the normal budgetary allocation, saying that was the practice in other countries.
Senator Ayogu Eze,PDP Enugu North tasked government to sell the project to International Oil Companies, IOCs, presently operating in the country as according to him, IOCs will be eventual beneficiaries of proposed extension of the Nigeria’s continental shelf by virtue of likely crude oil and other mineral finds.
He however advised the government to in the alternative, immediately open up an independent technical body to handle the extension of Nigeria’s continental shelf.