The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara has expressed concern on Nigeria’s annual revenue losses of over N7 trillion due to insecurity in our seas.
Dogara spoke at a two- day public hearing on ” A bill for an act to amend the maritime operations coordinating board act, (cap. M4 LFN 2004,” organized by the joint committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration & Navy.
This was as the Chairman of the House Committee on Navy, Hon. Abdulsamad Dasuki revealed that while the incidence of sea piracy is reducing in other territorial waters due to effective coordination, it is increasing in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea.
Dasuki said it was worrisome that given repeated warnings by the International Bureau (IMB) that attacks by sea -borne bandits off the West African Coast are in the rise in Nigeria
Dogara in his own submission, presented by the Deputy Minority leader, Chukwuka Onyeama said: “It is even more worrisome to note that Nigeria is said to be losing about N7 trillion annually in the Maritime sector due to among other reasons, leakages in revenue generation and insecurity in the water ways.
“Between January and March 2016, several attacks were reported off Nigeria’s coast. This was said to involve pirates stealing cargoes of crude oil and petroleum products. Reports had it that, no fewer than 44 ship crew members were abducted.
“In the first half of this year, about over 20 commercial vessels were attacked in Nigerian waters. The increasing level of attacks and violence in the Gulf of Guinea have given Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region very damaging and negative image in addition to an estimated monthly loss of $1.5 billion to the country.
“As I said recently, prevalence of insecurity in our waters resulted in the loss of $1.3 billion annually to illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa alone yearly. We must tighten the legal and regulatory framework to stop these losses. The only way to promote intra- African trade in our water ways is to ensure safety and security of navigation in our waters.”
The Speaker said its disturbing that pirate attacks in West Africa “are said to be occurring in our territorial waters, terminals and harbors and not in the high seas which effectively stopped intervention by international naval forces.”
However, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral I.E. Ibas while speaking at the hearing said the Nigerian Navy was responsible for the recovery of stolen Oil estimated at about N420.1 billion or $1.17 billion in 2016 alone,
According to him, between January to June 2017, the Navy had also arrested 17 vessels, 525 surface tankers, 31 tanker trucks, 11 vehicles, 27 speed boats, 28 wooden boats and arrested 150 suspects.
He further said 523 illegal refineries were destroyed as well as 445 storage tanks, 85 wooden boats and 49 barges. The worthy of the illegal oil destroyed was in excess of a total of $18. 770 million.
There was however contention between the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety
Agency, NIMASA over the establishment of Maritime Operations Co-ordinating Board, which was meant to be under the Supervision of the Navy but funded by NIMASA resources.
The Chief of Naval Staff supported the fund, saying the Nigerian Navy and other maritime security agencies will be able to adequately resource the protection of the Nigeria’s maritime environment. He also applauded the provision for the establishment of Maritime Safety Trust Fund (MSTF) to be managed by the Board.
But the representative of NIMASA Ali Ndabawa, a Director who represented the Director General, Dakuku Peterside, kicked against it.
He said: “Even the composition of the Board does not reflect the maritime security architecture of the country as presently constituted.
“The primary focus of the Maritime Operations Co-ordinating Board (MOCB) as contained in the principal Act, MOCB Act, 2004 is for the formulation of policies for maritime operations in Nigeria.
“The introduction of Piracy and other maritime related offences under the proposed Section 6 are not policy but operational and enforcement issues which already rest with the Attorney-General of the Federation, the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA and the Marine Police.
“This will no doubt create an unnecessary duplication of already existing functions of maritime enforcement security agencies and undermine the international dimension and importance of the Anti-Piracy draft bill which has covered in detail all the offences proposed under Section 6.”