•As Buhari appraises the Navy
•CNS laments dearth of inter-agency cooperation
By Kingsley Omonobi, Abuja
AT the backdrop of poor coordination of activities among Federal Government’s agencies in the manning of Nigeria’s maritime domain, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Commission, NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has said that the country loses about $25.5 billion annually to illegal maritime activities and another $1.3 billion to illegal bunkering.
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has said it was a worthwhile investment to encourage the Nigerian Navy to guarantee economic well-being within the context of the government’s effort to revamp and reposition the economy.
Speaking at the Chief of Naval Staff Annual Conference, CONSAC, he stated: “The untiring efforts of the Nigerian Navy which has seen to the reduction of crude oil theft, violent crimes and other illegalities in the nation’s maritime domain is noteworthy. It is gratifying to also note Nigerian Navy’s zeal and patriotic commitment to internal security duties in the hinterland and the nation’s adjoining waterways as exemplified in the robust deliberations of this conference”.
Buhari added, “The reality of our current security situation has thus further affirmed the multivalent utility of the Navy. The doggedness of naval officers and ratings, in synergy with other Services and agencies has significantly contributed to instilling peace and tranquility in most riverine and coastal communities. I, therefore, applaud the initiative in inviting stakeholders to be part of Nigerian Navy annual deliberations to synergise towards consolidating on our common maritime security. We are proud to acknowledge your gallantry and service in this constitutional responsibility.
At the 2021 CONSAC held in Kano with the theme, ‘Enhancing Nigeria’s Maritime Security for Improved National Prosperity’, the Chief of the Naval Staff, CNS, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, however, noted the dearth or lack of effective collaboration in maritime policing as one of the major impediments to tackling the emerging security situation in the nation’s maritime domain and exclusive economic zone.
According to Gambo, the present situation calls for constant reappraisals, greater collaboration as well as inter-agency cooperation among stakeholders. His words, “In recent times, some federal and local initiatives were initiated towards ensuring greater productivity of security efforts. The Nigeria Navy is saddled with the mandate to secure our maritime environment which possesses strategic importance to the nation’s economy.
“As such, the current security threats in the environment are of serious concern to all us as Nigerians. What is perhaps more disturbing is that much of the criminal activities in our maritime environment are directed at the economic life line of Nigeria. In other words, the scourge of illegalities, such as sea robbery, piracy, crude oil theft, poaching, human and illicit trafficking of weapons and drugs among others constitute serious challenges to the development of the country and the region at large.
“Characteristically, the maritime threats have become of major concern and are evolving and challenging the combat capability of the Nigerian Navy and other stakeholders. In the recent past, a huge capability gap has emerged among the stakeholders in the efficient discharge of their constitutional mandates.”
Against this backdrop, there were revelations from stakeholders regarding the extent of loses and shortcomings resulting from the dearth of collaborative efforts among agencies of government in the maritime space.
Speaking at the conference, the NIMASA boss said, “From available statistics Nigeria loses about $25.5billion annually to illegal maritime activities in her waters while NNPC loses about $1.35billion on illegal bunkering. The cost of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea due to stolen goods, insecurity, and insurance has been estimated to be about $2 billion with a significant decline in Sea Route Attractiveness”.
Also speaking, a maritime industry expert, Mr. Chukwuma Okolo, said that “Nigeria being a maritime country with over 850km stretch along the coast of the Atlantic Ocean and further major inland water ways (Rivers Niger and Benue) covering more than 3,400km, has significant oil and gas industrial complexes within the Atlantic coast and adjoining creeks and national assets worth over US$2trillion capital value. It is, therefore, obvious that enhancing Nigeria’s Maritime security for improved national prosperity is an imperative for national economic development and asset protection”.
Speaking on the topic, “Improving National Maritime Domain Awareness, MDA, through Inter-Agency Cooperation: Models, Policy Options and Strategies” Rear Admiral Akpan (retd) said the initiative of the Nigerian Navy demonstrates its concern for maintenance of Sea Lanes of Commerce within the nation’s maritime domain for economy to thrive without any hindrance or malfeasance at sea.
He stated further: “Maritime security is concerned with the prevention of intentional damage through sabotage, subversion, or terrorism and the prompt mitigation of incidences within the maritime domain. Maritime security, therefore, involves the continuous surveillance and reconnaissance of a nation’s maritime domain with a view to prompt interdiction when infringements occur to the nation’s regulations.”