By By Godwin Oritse
Stakeholders in the maritime industry are opposing passage of the proposed Maritime Security Agency Bill (MASECA) 2017 into law by the National Assembly.
The Bill, which is in many ways similar to the provisions of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Act 2007 is otherwise known as the MASECA bill.
At last week’s public hearing on the bill, Minister of Transportation represented by Mallam Shehu Aliyu, a Director in the Ministry, had argued that passing the MASECA Bill into law would not only create another burden on the finances of the Federal Government but also stall the growth of the shipping sector of the economy.
Continuing, he stated: “NIMASA is well structured with a reservoir of expertise to manage, supervise and protect the maritime industry. This therefore has both intended and unintended consequences for the administration of the maritime sector. Allowing two parallel agencies to operate within the same sector will most likely create confusion in the industry.
“In most cases, these are deliberate provision in the bill to either emasculate the well-structured operation of NIMASA or completely makes certain provisions of NIMASA ineffectual”.
On his part, the former Director General of NIMASA, Mr Raymond Omatseye, warned against the promulgation of the MASECA Bill into law, pointing out that it would create more problems for both the maritime industry and nation’s security agencies.
The former NIMASA helmsman also went into memory lane giving a historical insight on the various times the MASECA Bill has come up and died in the National Assembly in the past, even as he wondered the reasons behind the present frenzy to pass the bill into law.
In his contribution, Chairman Nigerian Seafarers Welfare Board, Mr Kunle Folarin stated that since maritime business is international, if the bill is passed into law for any reason, it will make Nigeria a laughing stock before the comity of maritime nations.
The Nigerian Shippers’ Council (NSC) on its part said it was not in support of the passage of the bill just as it maintained that it preferred a robust collaboration with the apex maritime regulatory authority as well as the Nigerian Navy.
Many other contributors also aligned themselves with the position taken by the ministry of transportation in spite of the support of some persons and groups outside the maritime industry for the passage of the MASECA Bill into law.
Meanwhile the House of Representative Committee on Marine Safety, Education and Administration has ordered the disbandment of the uniformed personnel of the proposed Maritime Security Agency, MASECA, pending the legislation of the Bill.
Also speaking at the public hearing on the proposed agency, Committee chairman, Hon. Muhammed Umar Bago, threatened to arrest the personnel of the proposed agency if they keep wearing the military camouflage uniforms.
Bago, who was visibly angry at presence of the uniformed personnel, said that but for peace sake, he would have ordered for the arrest of the unapproved uniforms being worn by personnel of an agency whose bill is still undergoing legislative process.
He also cautioned the person who was said to be parading himself as the Acting Director-General of the proposed agency.
“There is no law backing this uniform you are wearing, so on what grounds are you wearing this uniform, common Boys Scout have law, Nigerian Red Cross has law and religious bodies have laws.
“We cannot take that, so I am telling you that I am moving a motion on the issue of this camouflage and I will summon the President to appear before this House as to why they allowed the Ministry of Trade and Investment to approve for people to wear camouflage.
“That is why we are having issues, insecurity, you see people with all kinds of uniforms and you do not know where they or what they.
“So you see, we are here to right a wrong, you are wrong from the beginning, henceforth, remove your uniform, do not wear this uniforms until the law is passed.’’
Efforts to reach the Ministry of Trade and Investment was futile as calls make to the Director of information were not answered.