By Stephen Ubanna
Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Mmaritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, has given an insight why there had been too much abandoned wrecks in Nigerian waters over the years that could have been cleared by that the agency. Jamoh, had blamed it on the legal issues involved hat needed to be settled between the agency, Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, or the Nigerian Inland Water Ways , NIWA, which are saddled with the responsibility to do so going by the enabling Act establishing them.
Note that the three agencies of the Federal ministry of Transportation, under the close watch of Rotimi Amaechi. former governor of Rivers state had consistently claimed that it is their individual responsibility to remove the wrecks and derelicts from the Nigerian waters in order to bring relief to ship owners whose vessels Navigate the Nigerian water ways but that was how far they could go.
Een when the Federal Executive Council, FEC, gave a matching order last year that the wrecks and derelicts obstructing the movement of vessels in in the Nigerian waters should be cleared, the minister may have found it difficult to direct NIMASA, NIWA or NPA, to do so to avoid being accused of supporting one agency or the other. This may have informed why he found it difficult to enforce the government order as the wrecks continue to increase on a daily basis.
Until his exit of Daku Peterside, as the Director General, of NIMASA, in March 10, 2020, he had said that there are over 3,00 ship wrecks littering the nation’s coastline, forcing ship industry stakeholders to declare the country as the world graveyard of ship wrecks and derelicts.
Many belive that if NIMASA, NIWA and NPA,, have kept their differences behind them and followed the foot step of ECO Restoration Foundation, which single handedly removed a ship wreck causing obstruction to ocean –going vessels at Lekki Beach in in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre in 2016, as part of its efforts to save the environment, the situation may not have been as bad as it is today.
Jamoh, the NIMASA Director General, may have seen that the unhealthy Competition between the three agencies of the Federal ministry of Transportation over the removal of the wrecks and derelicts in the Nigerian waters was not good enough for the image of the country that he was said to have initiated moves to dialogue with Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman, who was until her removal from office last April was the Mangaing Director of NPA suspension and George Moghalu, the Chief Executive officer, CEO, of NIWA, to resolve the legal differences out of Court over the removal of the wrecks. He had his way.
The CEOs, of the three Maritime agencies were said to have discussed the matter extensively in their meetings which also included Hassan Bello, a former Executive Director, Nigerian Shippers Council, NSC and the Director Of Maritime Academy , Oron, Akwa Ibom state, south-south Ngeria. The NIMASA, boss, may have impressed it upon Hajia , Usman, the then Managing Director, of NPA and Moghalu, her NIWA, Counterpart, who was said to have lost out in the All Progressive Congress, APC, governorship primaries for the 2021, governorship election in Anambra state, south east Nigeria, that their respective agencies have business to struggle the removal of ship wrecks and derelicts in Nigerian maritime domain with NIMASA. He was said to have urged them to have put pressure on the NPA and the NIWA, CEOs, to agreeing ‘’to cede their responsibilities as regards to the wrecks and derelicts removal to NIMASA.
Recall that section 22(1)(n) of the agency Act ,2007, gives it the responsibility to receive and remove wrecks and derelicts in Nigerian waters. The NIWA Act of 1997, also confers upon it the duty ‘’to survey, remove and remove wrecks and derelicts and other obstructions from the country Inland waterways. The removal of such wrecks and derelicts from the nation’s waters may have been made difficult to do by either NIMASA OR NIWA,, because section 7 of the NPA Act 1999 also gave it powers to remove all wrecks and derelicts blocking access to Nigerian water ways.
An industry stakeholder who spoke to The Value News disclosed that the arrangement of the CEOs of NIWA and NPA, to transfer the responsibility of removing the wrecks and derelicts in Nigerian waters to NIMASA, have finally settled the question as to which agency in the Federal ministry of Transportation have the authority ’’to implement the government policy on removal of ship wrecks and derelicts in Nigerian waters. This may have strengthened the resolve of Jamoh, the NIMASA, helmsman, who, maritime analysts had described as a bridge builder in the nation’s maritime industry to bring all the industry stakeholders, including the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Immigration Service,NIS, together, to work as a team to confront the Common enemy: the Piracy in Nigerian waters.
The decision by NIWA and NPA, CEOs, to cede their respective agencies responsibility to NIMASA, to go ahead and remove the abandoned wrecks and derelicts in Nigerian waters take the may have encouraged him to take an inventory of the cost implication to the agency. Based on the number of the ship wrecks which are littered all over the Nigerian coastline may have given an insight that to go a good job, the agency would need close to N10billion.
Indeed, he was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that after clearing the wrecks ad derelicts which are scattered all over the country’s maritime domain, ‘’anyone found engaging in illegal scrapping of vessels or picking wrecks from the nation’s maritime domain in future would be prosecuted. Hear He had said that every dime collected as penalty from those caught in the act would be transferred into government coffers. There are fears in both official and unofficial circles that the wrecks and derelicts which are littered all over the country’s territorial domain may take long to be removed. An Industry operator told The Magazine that it takes a Contractor close to six months to remove and full dismantle a ship wreck because of the difficult and dangerous situation of Nigeria’s maritime domain. Take for instance, the removal of a barge wreck in 2011, near Alpha Beach, which was said to have been suspended due to high tides. The situation, aroud the Lagos Alpha Beach, where there are so many wrecks and derelicts, may not have changed, meaning that Jamoh, and the Contractors, that would be engaged, by NIMASA, both Local and Foreign would have much job to do in clearing the wrecks in the Nigerian waters.