By Stephen Ubanna
Those who think that the Nigerian waters are not safe for voyaging vessels would be disappointed. This is because the Nigerian Maritime Administration, NIMASA, under the close watch of Dakuku Peterside, the Director General, in collaboration with the Navy over the last three and half years, have made the country waters uncomfortable, for pirates and other criminal elements, thus making it one of the safest in the shipping route of Gulf of Guinea in the recent time.
The criminal elements who may have attempted to attack voyaging vessels and oil tankers would never forget their experience in a hurry in the hands of the Naval personnel patrol teams with the active support of the NIMASA Surveillance and Rescue officials.
That much was confirmed by Hassan Bello, a Lawyer and Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC. Bello had said that if the Pirates had made 100 attack attempts in the Nigerian waters, the Navy alone had scuttled 98 of them. His major worry was that any incident of pirate attacks on ocean going vessels and oil Tankers in neigbouring countries in the west African sub-region, the international Community, particular the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, had attributed it to Nigeria, to give the impression that the country waters are not safe.
indeed, the IMO, in its global reports for the first and second quarters of 1918 had actually described the country waters as unsafe for voyaging vessels. But maritime experts had dismissed the reports as erroneous ostensibly aimed at discouraging investors from the nation’s maritime sector
Bello , the NSC , boss, who did not find the report funny has threatened to take up the matter with the IMO and the Global Shippers Forum as well as other International Shipping Communities over their deliberate Classification of Nigerian waters as unsafe. He maintains that Nigerian waters are truly safer as stated by Peterside , the NIMASA boss.
The NSC helmsman had told those that cares to listen both within and outside the country that the ”country waters are safe and the ports efficient including getting cargoes . He disclosed that the nation’s seaports could compete with ports in other parts of the word as Hajia Hadiza Usman, the Managing Director , Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, is building new infrastructure at the ports that could stand the test of time.
The International Maritieme Bureau, IMB,, appears to have put smiles on NIMASA officials and Nigerians in general in its report on piracy incidents in the world. Note that the IMB is the only authentic specialised agency based in the Asian country of India, which could give accurate data that could not be faulted anywhere in the world about each maritime nation in terms of safety for voyaging vessels.
Only recently the Bureau rated Nigerian waters safer for ocean going vessels” , stating that” it has further boosted ”investors confidence in the nation’s maritime sector locally and globally”. The Bureau first quarter report this year had stated that the Nigerian maritime domain recorded” no vessel hijack , first time since 1994 that the country would have such a record”, no thanks to Peterside and his management team. The report further stated that between January and March , the country also recorded a decrease in piracy incidents compared to the same period last year.
Pttengal Mukundan, Director, IMB, reportedly said that Nigeria may have taken advantage of the Coordinated Responses to incidents of piracy through NIMASA and the Navy to give the pirates and other criminal elements within Nigerian waters a battle of their life that that they have been forced to go underground.
Recall that the agency had embarked on the Deep Blue Project with the backing of Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and now minister of Transportation. The project, according to NIMASA sources was geared towards riding the Nigerian waters of criminalities through an integrated security and water ways protection infrastructure.
This may have informed why the government maritime regulatory agency and the Navy could effectively patrol the 853 KM stretch of the country’s coastline and its location in the Gulf of Guinea axis may have also made it strategic for both maritime activities and security issues.
Many believe that the length of the country’s coastline and its exclusive economic zone including its strategic location on a major shipping route which is the Gulf of Guinea may have encouraged the agency officials to strengthen the security of the country water ways which Perside said had gradually ”reduced illegalities such as piracy , oil theft , sea robbery in the country waters and indeed the Gulf of Guinea”.
Appearing before the Senate Committee on Maritime during the defense Transport of its 2019 budget recently, the NIMASA, had informed them that ”piracy and other maritime crimes in Nigerian waters had reduced drastically in the country’s maritime domain”, thus making it safer for” maritime investmen’t .
He had alsoi informed the Committee that that all the various efforts put in place by the agency with the support of the government to ”tackle piracy and other crimes in Nigerian waters are yielding results. He was alluding to the Deep Blue project assuring that that it would” continue to up its game to ensure Nigerians benefit from the enormous potential in the sector” to the admiration of the Committee members.
Peterside who could not hide his feelings had told the Lawmakers that the that the Nigerian waters could not have been rated safer by the IMB without the support of other security agencies , particular, Rear Admiral Akinjide Akirinade led Joint Task Force on oil Bunkering in the Niger Delta
. ” Statistics do not lie”, he said. An elated NIMASA boss said they were however not surprised with the IMB rating because of the level of work done over the last three and half years to make the country waters safe. ”We know the level of work we have done coupled with the support of President Muhammadu Buhari and Amaechi, the minister of Transportation to ensure that the country maritime sector becomes a haven for investors”, he had said.
He is optimistic that with the improved security in Nigerian waters which had sacked the pirates and other criminal elements, the nation’s maritime sector could easily ”fund a large a large percentage of the country’s budget if properly harnessed.
He noted that despite the increases in the agency’s contribution to the Consolidated Revenue Fund, CRF, it ”remained committed to doing more, especially with the recently launched ” final billing system, the automation of its processes and other strategies being put in place by the management to block all areas of revenue leakages ”.
Bello, the NSC boss, corroborated his views when he said that the Nigerian waters are safer for business to thrive because of the coordinated and well thought out plans between NIMASA and the Navy, an indication of more money coming into the government coffers at the end of the year.
He had challenged the country maritime detrators to look at their collaboration between NIMASA and the country’s Navy to really understand that Nigerian waters are safer for ocean going vessels. He disclosed that those who had branded the country waters as unsafe had done so in order to put outrageous surcharges such as” war risk insurance surcharges” on Shipping lines which could be passed to the shipper and in turn to the Consumer to heighten inflation in the country.” We are not war’, he said.’ .\