The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has admitted handing over its statutory roles and responsibilities to the Nigerian Navy.
According to the agency, it cannot discharge its statutory role of ensuring safety and providing security in Nigerian waters without the help of the Nigerian Navy.
The admission of the agency is coming on the heels of fears in certain quarters that the Nigerian Navy have usurped critical functions of NIMASA as provided in the NIMASA Act 2007.
According to some stakeholders, the Nigerian Navy have overshadowed NIMASA under the guise of implementing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) it signed with the agency over a decade ago. The provisions of the MoU enables the Nigerian Navy operate the agency’s Maritime Guard Command. This is contrary to the international standards set by the global maritime watchdog, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which has its headquarters in London, United Kingdom.
In recent times, the Nigerian Navy have been making seizures of vessels allegedly involved in oil theft and other crimes in Nigerian waters without involving NIMASA which has the core responsibility to do same.
No fewer than 250 Nigerian seafarers were also reportedly detained at various prisons, without NIMASA discharging authority on the matter, as the country’s maritime security regulator.
The Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside confirmed the development while speaking with the executive members of the Maritime Reporters Association of Nigeria (MARAN) at the agency’s corporate headquarters, Apapa, Lagos.
Peterside however said the agency remained on top of its responsibilities, but added that it cannot seize an erring vessel without the help of the Nigerian Navy.
His words: “NIMASA as an agency does not have the power to bite, but we do that through the Nigerian Navy. If you want to detain a ship and you do not place armed men on-board the ship, before you know it, the shop would sail away, especially the foreign vessels. They come into our waters, perpetrate a lot of evil and they just leave.
“The seafarers in prison, you are just mentioning that to us now. I will advise that you follow the right channel to address the situation. The Navy has their functions clearly defined. The Merchant Shipping Act is on its own. Nigeria is one country and we are not divided. It is a collaborative effort that builds the house. If NIMASA goes away to do something different from what the Nigerian Navy is doing and we do not complement ourselves, there would always be friction. But NIMASA has taken the bull by its horns by having an MoU with the Nigerian Navy and we work within the confines of that”.
President of MARAN, Mr. Anya Njoku charged the agency on its responsibilities, especially as relates to seafarers welfare and capacity development.
He also urged the agency to take the bull by the horns by implementing fully, the country Inland Shipping Act 2003, popularly known as Cabotage Act, while ensuring that local seamen are not constantly harassed by the Nigerian Navy at sea, who arrest and detain them for alleged oil theft, when the owners of the vessels are not are not arrested.
“Maritime is an international business and as such, it must be operated in line with international maritime laws, such as the SOLARS, which provides for safety of seamen at sea. A situation where NIMASA has allowed the Nigerian Navy to take up a critical part of its statutory responsibility and remain as a lame dog is worrisome. Many of our seamen, just a small percentage of the larger number of seamen in the country who managed to get job, have landed in prison because the agency which is supposed to protect them has abandoned them”.