By Stephen Ubanna
Between March and now, Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, had embarked working visits to the Chief Executives of the various security agencies of government seeking for their Cooperation in a bid to secure the nation’s maritime domain.
The agencies included the Nigerian Navy, NN, Nigerian Police Force, NPF, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, and the Nigerian Immigration Service,NIS. The working visit had already taken him and his entourage to the Naval Headquarters, Force Headquarters, and the Customs Headquarter, all located at Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. The visit was said to have given opportunity to the NIMASA Director General to have discussion withok Ekwe Ibas, a Vice Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff, CNS, Mohammed Adamu, Inspector General of Police, IGP and Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel and Comptroller General , Nigerian Customs Service, NCS. The latest to be visited was Mohammed Bandede, the Director General of the Nigeria Immigration Agency, NIS.
The NIMASA, boss may have embarked on the working visit to bring the agencies together to stop the pirates attack on ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. In 2018, Ibas, the CNS, had revealed that Nigeria , Camerron, Equatorial Guinea in the Gulf of Guinea are currently losing over $2 billion annually to pirate attacks on ocean going vessels. The CAS had said that Nigeria, alone is losing and an additional $370 million to illegal fishing and poaching on its Coastal and territorial waters.
Given the Team Spirit that is working out in the agency , which had resulted in the achievements that had been recorded in the agency in the last five months, the NIMAS, boss believes that it could be extended to the government security agencies in order to achieve greater result in the nation’s maritime domain.
Recall that in each of the visits to the other government agencies, he been accompanied by some members of the Management Team. Take for instance, the recent visit to the NIS, he was said to have been accompanied by Victor Ochei, the agency Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage service, and the Abuja , Zonal office Coordinator, Zailani Musa Attah.
Appearing at the NIS, office, he had told Babandede, the NIS, Comptroller General that ‘’teamwork was the surest way to the security of Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. He stopped short at telling the Immigration Comptroller General that engaging the services of private security Companies to secure the nation’s Anchorage area was not the solution to address criminality in Nigeria waters but the solution lie on the agencies working as a team.
The implication of his message to the CEOs, of the government agencies was that if the agencies could agree to burry their difference and work together as a tam the pirates would never have the opportunity to operate freely in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
The NIMASA boss , was said to have further informed Bandede , the NIS Director General that the service was ’’ a key in the implementation of the nation’s Caboage Act, which seeks to empower Nigerians in the maritime sector to be able to compete with the Foreign shipping Company owners who had dominated the nation’s maritime sector over the years by lifting all the crude oil cargo into the International market.
The NIMASA, Director General who could not hide his feelings was said to have emphatically told the NIS, boss, ‘’ we need to interface and synergise to ensure the security of the nation’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea . He may have gladdened the heart of Bandede, when he repeatedly said that , ‘’the NIS, is the key to the success of the country’s maritime operatives in many ways’’.
He explained that many of the criminal activities that had taken place in the country waters and the Gulf of Guinea terminate on Land .This may have informed why he said that ’’ NIS, is a very key element in any effort to nip such criminals activities on bud’’. The NIMASA Helmsman who could not hide his feelings said the ‘’ Collaboration with the NIS, remain very crucial in the realisation of the objectives of the country Cabotage Act which was signed into Law by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2003. He stressed that ‘’such partnership ‘’will go a long way in reducing inter-agency conflicts that often arise from the overlap of responsibilities’’.
Security experts had told The Magazine that there are provisions in the Immigration Law that empower the agency ‘’to grant work permits to expatriates’’, noting ’’some of these expatriates work as seafarers’’, despite that such expatriates are not meant to man the country’s cabotage vessels, ’’. Given an insider information about the Cabotage Act, Jamoh , according Philip Kyanet, a Deputy Director and the agency ,Head of Corporate Communications who had issued a Statement concerning the Director General working visit to NIS, had said that under the Cabotage regime, expatriates are not meant to man the Cabotage vessels except where their expertise are needed for such operation.
According to him, there are services where expatriates can only be engaged ‘’after a waiver has been granted by the exclusive permission of the minister of Transportation. Perhaps to avoid such conflicts that may arise from such a situation where an expatriate seafarer had obtained a work permit from the agency but found not to be qualified to Function in that capacity within the Nigerian maritime domain, the NIMASA, boss noted that ‘’this is where the collaboration between Maritime Regulatory agency and NIS , is necessary’’. He insists that‘’ the collaboration between the two agencies will help to harmonise the seemingly overlapping laws and forestall unnecessary rancor among their officers’.
Indeed, the recent working visit of the NIMASA helmsman to his Counterpart in other agencies including the tNIS, appear to have started yielding result. This is evident by the eport of Bandede, the Immigration boss, in his apparent response to Jamoh’s speech of the readiness of the agency to partner with NIMASA ‘’to curb the illegal Immigration and piracy in Nigeria water ways.
As a prelude to addressing the problem in Nigeria land borders, he disclosed that the NIS , had started making use of the Migration Information and Data Analysis System, MIDAS, described in security circles as a comprehensive land border management information system,
The facility was said to have been developed by the International Organisation for Migraton, IOM. Given an inside information about the MIDAS, the NIS, Comptroller General, had said that ‘’it was designed with the capability to collect, process, store and alalyse traveler Information, especially the biometrics and profile, in real time for the purpose of identification, verification and authentication of documents’’.
He may have put smiles on the Face of his NIMASA Director General when he disclosed that the MIDAS, had been ‘’installed in 24 locations across the country’s land borders, airports and seaports. The locations that were said to have been currently making use of the facility, included the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, Murtala Mohammed Internal Airport, Ikeja, Lagos, Akanu IIbiam International airport, Enugu and Aminu Kano International airport, Kano.
The land borders that were said to have been connected to the MIDAS, are the busy Seme, a border town between Nigeria and the neighbouring Republic of Benin, Idiroko , another border town between Nigeria and Benin and the border locations in the south –south state of Cross river, and the north western states of Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi and Zamfara
Many believe that the shipping syndicate operating in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea are in trouble as NIMASA, NCS, NPF and NIS, officials have agreed to bury their differences to work as a team to achieve result in the security of Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
It is no longer of a situation of the Navy and NIMASA ,ding all the work alone to confront the Pirates. The Statement by Ibas , the CNS, that the Navy has continuously being fine-tuned to counter emerging challenges through maintenance of credible presence within THE Nigeria waters speaks volume.
Ever since Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, started the sensitisation Campaign to encourage the various government security agencies to work together as a team, fear, appear to have gripped the Pirates operating in the nation’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea, as many of the Pirate groups were said to have gone back to the drawing board to perfect plans to continue in their security threats to the nation’s oil and gas infrastructure as well as marine resource theft including other organised crimes.
There is no gain saying the fact that the nation’s maritime domain has been under threat of piracy , sea robbery, illicit drug trafficking, illegal unreported and unregulated fishing and marine pollution.