A MAJOR indicator that Nigeria operates a backward maritime economy is the existence of a large quantum of wreckages and derelicts within our maritime ecosystem, especially the coasts and waterways.
Nigeria has a generally poor attitude to wreckage and waste management. Along our highways, at our airports and waterways, wrecked vehicles and vessels are indiscriminately abandoned by the owners, and the authorities charged with the responsibility of ensuring their removal rarely do their jobs.
As a result, many owners of old shipping vessels truck them down and dump them in Nigerian waters. They know that no one will hold them accountable or force them to pay for that obnoxious behaviour.
In 2018, a former Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, warned the owners of such vessels to remove them or they would be penalised or made to pay the cost of removal.
The situation remained the same. But there are reassuring signs that NIMASA will soon take action to clear our waterways.
In June this year, the Federal Executive Council, FEC, unfolded a N10 billion package for the clearing of the waterways. Indeed, the NIMASA Director General, Bashir Jamoh, warned freelance scavengers floating around our maritime precincts carting away the wreckages for profit to keep off as NIMASA is the only state agency empowered by law to carry out such activities.
NIMASA has also partnered with the Nigerian Railways Corporation, NRC, with a view to having the recovered vessels recycled at the Corporation’s foundry yard at its Iddo Terminus in Lagos.
With this funding and a recycling destination determined for the wrecks, there should be no other earthly reason for them to continue to exist.
For an efficient operation, we suggest that NIMASA engages the services of the private sector to move these disused vessels because government agencies cannot be trusted to handle such jobs satisfactorily due to red tape and corruption.
This is more so as the FEC did not appear to have saddled NIMASA with a deadline for the completion of the assignment.
Once the wreckages are removed and regulations for the future prevention of such put in place, the next assignment will be for the massive and regular dredging of our major water corridors to be done.
Shipping and boating can commence at a new level in Nigeria. It will contribute a lot in diversifying the economy, creating jobs and minimising the presence of pirates and petty criminals who threaten the movement of people, goods and services on our waterways.
The foreigners who dump disused vessels and all forms of toxic wastes in our waters will know that our country has retaken charge of its sovereign territory. They will go elsewhere.
The ball is in NIMASA’s court.