By Stephen Ubanna
For years, there have been repeated cases of stowaway victims in Nigeria. The English Language Learners and the Chambers Dictionary had defined stowaway as a person who hides on a ship, aircraft or Train to get a passage to another country without paying or being seen.
But Wikipedia, defined the stowaway , baptized the clandestine traveler as a person, who boards a vehicle, such as a ship, aircraft, train , cargo truck or bus, stressing that ‘’the goal is to enter another country without first obtaining a travel VISA or other permission’’.
The problem is more pronounced at the nation’s International airports, particular, Murtala Mohammed International Airport, MMIA, where Aviation officials and security agencies personnel, are doing everything within their capacity to contain. The situation is so worrisome to Aviation Authorities because of its implications for air safety.
In 2017, there was a case of a 15 year-old, Nigerian teenager who was said to have hidden for twelve hours in the wheel compartment of a Med-View Airline Boing 747, flying from MMIA, Lagos to London, United Kingdom. He was said to have survived the flight forcing the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authorities, NCCA, to institute an investigation into the incident. That was how far, the Aviation agency could go.
As if the 2017, incident was not enough bad advertisement for the country, last April, the body of a Nigerian man was found underneath a plane that had Landed at Amsterdan from Nigeria. Given that the victim could not be identified may have encouraged the Aviation Authorities to Launch an investigation into the man’s Identity and cause of death after he was discovered inside the wheel arch.
Although, officials of the Federal Airports Authority, FAAN and NCCA, are making concerted effort with industry stakeholders to tackle the security challenges unfolding at the country’s international airports from time to time, and reduce to the barest minimum.
Given what is happening at the nation’s Aviation sector where there had been established cases of stowawy victims may have encouraged Bashir Jamoh,led Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, to introduce new policy measures ‘‘to check security threats in the nation’s maritime domain and deter persons who may want to seek illegal means of entry into the country as stowaways’’.
He asserted that the new policy measures were adopted to tackle the menace of stowaway in Nigerian waters, now and in the future, stressing that ‘’under the new procedures, ‘’all ship Captains are to submit the security-related Pre-arrival Information , SRPA, forms to the agency not later than 48 hours before the ship’s arrival at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tin-can Island, Port Multi services Terminal Limited, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal, Phases I&II and the south east ports of Onne, Rivers port, Delta port , Calabar port including the Offshore Terminals .
The NIMASA Director General disclosed that the ship Captains are also required ‘‘to exchange the Declaration of Security, DoS, with the Port Facility Security Officer, PFSO, of the next port of call’’ not later than 72 hours before the ship arrival at the port for conveyance to the Maritime Regulatory agency within 48 hours.
As part of the new measures to prevent stowaway and other security threats in Nigerian maritime domain, the NIMASA Chief Executive Officer, CEO, was said to have made it clear to have made it clear to industry operators that all Merchant ships are ‘‘to maintain 24 hours vigilance and surveillance on arrival at any Nigerian port to be able to detect strange movements , including small crafts and skiffs around their vessel that may not be captured by the radar’’.
The measures, according to the NIMASA, boss include ‘’proper pre- departure search and completion of e- departure Form before sailing out from the port to another port within or outside the country, switching on Automatic Identification Systems AIS, close monitoring of Communication channels and response to any VHF call from the Nigerian Navy or the Regional Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre, RMRCC.
The NIMASA helmsman, who could not hide his feelings had said that ‘the measures are consistent with ‘‘the strategy of trying to keep one step ahead of the Pirates , sea robbers and other Criminal elements or anything that poses a threat to the country’s maritime domain’’.
Philip Osagie, an Assistant Director and spokesman , of the agency, had told officials of the shipping Lines who are worried about the new security measures that there was no cause for alarm, noting that ‘’the procedures are easy to follow’’.
He disclosed that ‘‘deliberate steps have been taken to make the reporting process seamless’’, stressing that ‘’it was for the good of all the ship operators and the International shipping Community.
He may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said the ship operators are in ‘‘keeping with the agency’s statutory mandate ‘‘to provide maritime security and implement special actions ‘’to enhance the security measures in line with the ISPS Code Implementation Regulations, ICR, 2014’’.
Many believe that officials of the FAAN, NCCA and other Aviation Authorities have a lot to benefit from Jamoh, the NIMASA Director General, to be able to tackle the menace of stowaway at the country’s International airports if they are ready to collaborate in their Operations and share ideas tog
Aviation experts will want Captain Yadudu, the FAAN, Managing Director and his Counter at NCCA, to take a cue from Nigerian Meterological Agency, NIMET, under the close watch of Bako Matazu, a Professor, which already have a close working relation with the agency.
The two parties had agreed to set up a joint working Committee to develop an action plan and implement a Memorandum of Understanding, MoU,on the provision of the things that are recognized missing in the nation’s maritime industry.
Take for instance, the Aviation agency, has set a target to ensure that ‘’it provides meteorological services to aid the movement of ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters to forestall attack from Pirates and sea robbers.