By Oladipupo Mojeed
The House of Representatives has taken a significant step towards stopping an annual loss of about N7 trillion to insecurity on the nation’s territorial waters.
Honourable Yakubu Dogara, the Speaker, who expressed concern over the situation, said there was an urgent need to pass laws that would address the insecurity in the maritime sector.
The Speaker was represented by the House Deputy Minority Leader, Chukwuka Onyema Wifred, at a public hearing on a Bill for an Act to Amend the Maritime Operations Coordinating Board Act, Cap M4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004, among others.
Dogara cited 2012 reports of the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme of attacks on 1000 seafarers in the West African sub-region.
According to him, between January and March 2016, there were several attacks off Nigeria’s coast involving 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 20 commercial vessels were attacked on Nigerian waters. The increasing level of attacks and violence on 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 on 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 on our waterways is to ensure safety and security of navigation.
“What is disturbing is that pirate attacks in West Africa are said to be occurring on our territorial waters, terminals and harbours and not on the high seas which effectively stopped intervention by international naval forces,” Dogara said.
He, therefore, pointed out that the onus is on the Nigerian Navy to stem the tide and secure our territorial waters, in cooperation with other agencies of government.
The speaker further said the creation of the Maritime Security Fund would go a long way in providing the much-needed money to empower the Nigeria Navy (NN).
Speaking, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral I.E Ibas acknowledged that Nigeria’s national interests in the maritime environment are being threatened by the activities of pirates, armed robbery at sea, crude oil theft and illegal bunkering, poaching, smuggling, vandalism, kidnapping, proliferation of small arms, waste dumping and oil pollution.
Warning that the reign of insecurity in the maritime domain could lead to grave implications on the wellbeing of the country, he said going by the report of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Nigeria loses $6.70 billion annually as against the income of $67.18 billion within a five-year period of 2012 to 2016.
The naval chief also stressed the need to secure the Agbami, Bonga, Amena-kpono, Engina, EA and ESAN oil installations which produce 330.325,000 barrels of crude oil worth $18,167,875,000.00 yearly at the cost of $55 per barrel.