By Godfrey Bivbere
NIGERIAN Navy, NN, and the Hydrographic Society of Nigeria, HSN, are in war of words over the control of the nation’s waters.
While the Navy claims that it is in charge of charting, control and performance of hydrographic functions in the nation, the HSN says there is an urgent need for the establishment of the office of the national hydrographer to take charge of civil hydrography.
Speaking at a function in Lagos, a retired Admiral of the Nigerian Navy, Dele Ezeoba, said the Navy hydrographer doubles as the hydrographer general of the nation and has been performing the duty over the years.
However, Olumide Omotoso, convener of HSN, said it is not suppose to be so, as this is not the practice globally. According to Omotoso, in Britain there is the office of the hydrographer general who is a civilian and is in charge of the commercial hydrographic functions, while the Navy is in charge of the military hydrographic function.
Omotoso said the role of hydrography in any maritime nation cannot be over-emphasised as that is the foundation that creates the opportunity in the water and navigation in general. He stated: “You see, there is what we call jurisdiction in the marine space. Everybody has his own marine space, everyone has his own sphere of influence, and the layers of authority are defined.
“We have National Inland Waterways Authority, NIWA, port areas, territorial waters and so on. Nigerian Navy has its own territories, NPA, NIWA all have their territories. So, all the waters in Nigeria fall under a particular sphere of influence. So, what I am talking about is the one under my area of influence, the port area. I know the port authority, the port areas are well charted and the charts are available, the data is there to give comfort to shippers.
“So for the other areas, the capacity for hydrographic or what I call capacity building for hydrography is weak and almost lacking because as we speak there is no institution in Nigeria that trains hydrographers and we work hard now to ensure that we create hydrographic institution where hydrographers can be trained, that can maintain channel chart as at when required.”
There have been complaints by some stakeholders about non-charting of the nation’s waterways being the cause of accidents and call for the charting of the waterways to aid shipping. Recall that some officials of the Nigerian Navy recently visited the management of the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, after the altercations in Lagos.
The Navy team led by the flag officer commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Oladele Bamidele Daji, said the high command of the Navy would savour working partnership with the NPA on the issue of wreck removal in line with Standard Operational Procedures, SOPs, which would spell out each party’s areas of coverage.
Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, had said then that the NPA was desirous of sustaining the existing collaboration between the agency and the Nigerian Navy.
On the importance of hydrographic chart in the operational activities in the sector, Hadiza indicated that the NPA hydrographers would collaborate with the Nigerian Navy in delivering the required services.