National Assembly Moves To Amend NIMASA  16 Year-Old- Act   

By Stephen Ubanna

With barely 17 years after  the Nigerian Maritime  Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, was established by former President Olusegun Obasanjo,  with the merger of the defunct National Maritime Authority, NMA and the Joint Maritime Labour Industrial Council, going by the agency 2007 ct, the Senate Committee on Marine Transport, under the Chairmanship of Senator Wasiu Sanni Eshinlokun had given an insight that  the  Act  is about to be amended to  meet the present day realities of the nation’s maritime sector. 

Senator Eshinlokun, may have gladdened the heart of stakeholders when he disclosed recently during a recent working visit to the NIMASA Headquarters in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre with other members of the Marine Committee, stating that the 10th National Assembly is Committed ‘’to formulating policies that will ensure that Nigerians enjoy the benefits of the blue economy’’.

As a prelude to amending the NIMASA 2007 Act, he had said that ‘’a constructive evaluation of the existing  legal framework  of the agency was necessary to ascertain the gaps for possible review, in line with the vision of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’’.

TheSenate Committee on Marine Transport Chairman, who could not hide his feelings had told those that cares to listen that ‘’with the creation of the marine and blue economy ministry by the Tinubu’s Administration, a message has been sent stakeholders that ‘’the country’s maritime sector has a huge role to play in nation building’’.

Jamoh, DG, NIMASA And Senate Committee on Marine Transport Members In A Group Pix

This may have informed why he had said that the Lawmakers have no option but to align with the vision of the Lagos state born Nigerian President and support the government ‘’to achieve a better country for all Nigerians’’.   Senator Eshinlokun and his Committee members who were said to have acknowledged the maritime regulatory agency’s investment in the acquisition of safety and security architecture, averred that such efforts was a clear confirmation that it was conscious of its mandate as one the country major contributors to its +9/sustainable development.

Senator Abdul  Ningi,  a member of the Marine Transport  Committee , may have taken advantage of the oversight working visit, to commend Bashir Jamoh, OFR, and his Management Team  for taking the agency to a level that it could compete with any other maritime Administration in any part of the world including the developed ecomies. Senator Ningi could speak out compared to what he saw on ground when he first visited the agency some years ago. Hear him:  I must state categorically that much progress has been made in the agency over the last three years. He repeated stated’’

Femi Gbajabiamila, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives and now Chief of Staff to the Nigerian President, had made Nigerians to understand   that the Lower Chamber of the 9th National Assembly had embarked on the amendment of the NIMASA Act 2007 due to the need to approve the statutory instruments in the nation’s maritime sector to meet the need of the current realities.

Gbajabiamila, the immediate pat Speaker of the House of Representative, was said to have made it clear to industry stakeholders that the need for appropriate regulation of the country’s maritime sector in tune with the realities of the times is now to ensure maximum utilization of the sector.

Until the  9th and 10th National Assembly took the gold initiative to review the NIMASA, 2007 Act, stakeholders in 2017, had opposed  moves  by the Nigerian Navy  ,seeking the amendment  of the NIMASA Act  to contribute  one percent  of its revenue  to the security agency. 

NIMASA sources two percent contribution from the indigenous ship owners from every contract executed in the nation’s waters to fund the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund, CVFF, which was inserted in the Coastal and shipping Act  of  2003,popular, Cabotage Act  2003 by the Obasanjo’s Administration. The Act was inserted to provide indigenous ship operators with funds for vessel acquisition.  It was this fund which was sourced from the two percent contribution by the indigenous ship owners that the Nigerian Navy wants to go through the back door by sharing it equitably   of one percent each with NIMASA, through the amendment of the agency 2007 Act in 2007 but failed.     

Temisan Omatseye, a former Director General of NIMASA, had pointed out clearly that it will be against all the Conventions of the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, which Nigeria had entered into to be implemented.

The former NIMASA boss had alluded to section 22 of the NIMASA Act, which provides opportunity for the maritime regulatory agency to provide maritime security, noting that IMO, frowns at issues of military engagement in Commercial activities. The former NIMASA helmsman had supported the amendment of the NIMASA 2007 Act but not for its functions to be usurped by the Navy or any other government agency.

    Given the seriousness of the Senate Marine Committee this time around in ensuring that the NIMASA Act of 2007, is amended without further delay, an elated Senator Eshinlokun, had confirmed   that the bill   has passed the first reading on the floor of the upper Chamber, noting that it would go through all the whole Legislative process to be approved and subsequently sent to the President to be signed into Law to become a working document.   

 Going by the interaction between the two parties during the working visit,  the Senate Marine Committee Chairman  may have gladdened  heart of Jamoh and his Management Team when  he declared: I have say  on behalf of my  colleagues  that we are  with you  on this journey  and will not hesitate  to support your vision  of maritime security, maritime safety and ship development  as much as such is geared towards  enhancing  the potential  of the nation’s maritime sector  for improved  national growth  and development.

 Jamoh, the NIMASA Chief Executive Officer, CEO, may have given the Lawmaker a message to go back home with   when he stated that ’a well-developed marine and blue economy would be strong enough to service Nigerian’s annual budget.  He could beat his chest that the nation’s maritime sector can service the country’s annual budget because ‘’it encompasses all economic activities associated with the oceans and seas.

He had told the Legislators that the NIMASA  is working  round the clock  ‘’too ensure  that Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea, using the $195 million maritime security equipment procured by the government and domiciled in the agency by synergising with the Nigerian Navy, under the close watch of Vice Admiral, to operate and maintain the vessel Emmanuel Ogalla and the Nigeria Air Force, which has Air Marshall, Hassan Abubakar, as the Air Force Chief, to operate and maintain the aircrafts and unmanned Aerial vehicles.

The Nigeria government had used the $195 million to procure 17 Fast interception Boats, 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol, and two Special Mission Vessels, currently being manned by the Vice Admiral Ogalla ed Nigerian Navy. This is in addition to the procurement of three helicopters, two Special Mission aircrafts for Surveillance of Nigeria Exclusive Economic Zone, NEEZ, and four unmanned Aerial vehicles, which are currently be operated and maintained by Air Marshall Abubakar led Nigerian Air Force.

Looking back at what the agency had achieved over the years, an elated Jamoh, had said that ‘’the time has come for us as a nation to build on the recent gains in the area of safety and security in the Nigeria waters and by extension the Gulf of Guinea.

Contrary reports making the rounds in other government agencies that appropriated funds are not used for the purpose for which it was meant for, the NIMASA, had said that ‘’the agency   is utilizing the appropriated funds judiciously’’. He had alluded to the investment in infrastructure, noting that that the Maritime Administration will continue to work in the direction of the President who has created the ministry of marine and blue economy which has Adegboyega Oyetola, a former governor of Osun state as the minister.         

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