By Francis Ugwoke
The Minister of Tramsportation, Hon Rotimi Amaechi, Thursday expressed concerns over the continued acvities of the Ocean Marine Services Limited (OMSL), a private security firm which is providing exclusive security to shipping lines bringing goods into Apapa ports against pirates on arriving the Lagos territorial waters.
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had moved to stop the operations of the firm on the claim that the services were the statutory obligations of the apex maritime authority, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency and Nigerian Navy.
Amaechi had also in February this year given an order stopping the private firm from offering services to the shipping lines.
The firm provides security for vessels on anchorage with specific fees which initially was said to be $2,500 on the first day and subsequently $1200 daily until the vessel leaves.
Amaechi who delivered a virtual keynote address at this year’s World Maritime Day celebration in Lagos hinted that the operation was still on despite efforts by his Ministry and NPA to stop the private firm.
He said that the individual has continued to manage the business with support from other institutions which he failed to disclose.
He expressed dismay that individual shipping lines have continued to patronise the security firm.
Amaechi blamed stakeholders for failing to address the issue, insisting that only the minister has the consitutional right to set up such secure anchorage area.
Lamenting the critis in the mairitime sector, apparently referring to piracy, the Minister sad the operator of the security firm, who he referred to as an individual collects $1200 on daily basis from shipowners to provide security.
He was particularly bitter that the individual is partnering with the military to do this.
According to him , “Today, we have a single individual partnering with the military that is the collecting $1,200 to the detriment of shipping companies.
“There is a crisis in the Maritime sector. The crisis is on the issue of security
“That one individual is still managing the business with support of other institutions.”
“The stakeholders are doing nothing to the individual and he is become so rich as a result of exploiting the industry.
“We are saying this is the time to say enough is enough.
“No individual has right to collect money. The Nigerian Ports Authority does not allow any other person than the Minister of Transportation to set up Secure Anchorage Area.”
Meanwhile, the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu who attended the World Maritime Dau event stated that the maritime industry is pivotal to Nigeria’s attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Sanwo-Olu said the country must put in place deliberate measures for the optimal utilisation of its enormous maritime potential.
The governor who was represented by his deputy, Dr. Obafemi Hamzat, at the event which theme was “Sustainable Shipping For Sustainable Plane,” commended the federal government for its plan to move containers across the country with barges, stressing that it would bring about more efficiency and ease pressure on the roads.
According to the Governor, “The theme of this year’s World Maritime Day, Sustainable Shipping For a Sustainable Planet, is apt and timely when we need to pay rapt attention to making our shipping process more environmentally friendly. It is also coming at a time when we need to support the maritime industry to contribute its quota to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals of eradicating poverty and achieving sustainable development by 2030.”
The governor added, “We need to optimise the potential of the maritime industry by utilising our waterways to transport goods and services from one destination to another locally. In respect of this, I must commend the Federal Government for the plan to begin transportation of containers from Lagos to Onitsha through barges and subsequently, to other parts of the country.”
In her own remarks, the Chairman, House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Education and Administration, Hon. Lynda Ikpeazu, commended the recent collaboration between the Nigeria Navy, Nigeria Police, and NIMASA in addressing maritime insecurity in the country.
Ikpeazu pledged the National Assembly’s support for the Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, in his effort to galvanise the capacities of stakeholders towards maritime safety, security, and shipping development.
In her welcome address, the Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki, said the event provided an opportunity for the country to focus attention on the crucial role of the maritime industry in the attainment of the SDGs. Saraki said the maritime sector was replete with both opportunities and challenges, noting that the country must find sustainable ways of profitable utilisation of its huge maritime resources.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Sustainable Development Goals, Princess Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, in her own remarks, emphasised the importance of sustainable use of the seas and oceans. Orelope-Adefulire said a sustainable blue economy would unlock the full economic opportunities of the oceans, seas, lakes, rivers and other water resources through investment, while protecting the environment for future generations.
Speaking also at the occasion, NIMASA DG, Dr. Jamoh restated the federal government’s commitment to the security of the country’s marine environment through the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also known as the Deep Blue Project.
He said over 85 per cent of the assets needed for the project’s full takeoff had arrived the country, stressing that the training process for officers that would man the various equipment is being concluded.
According to him, “The determination of the Agency to ensure sustainable use of the seas and oceans is clearly demonstrated by our establishment in 2008 of a specialised department in charge of marine environment management. With the current collaboration between NIMASA, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, and other security agencies, I am convinced that the future of maritime security in the country is very bright.”
Other dignitaries present at the occasion included the Chairman, Senate Committee on Marine Transport, Sen. Danjuma Goje, who was represented by a member of the Committee, Sen. Tolu Odebiyi; Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dr. Magdalene Ajani; Registrar, Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders (CRFFN), Mike Jukwe; and Chairman, Ship Owners Forum, Mrs. Margaret Orakwusi.
September 25 every year is set aside by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to commemorate the World Maritime Day. Nigeria, through the Federal Ministry of Transportation, marked this year’s event on September 24.