By DAPO OLAWUNI
Nigerian Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi has expressed his frustrations over maritime stakeholders continuous patronage of the Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) contract being run by a private company; Ocean Marine Services Limited (OMSL)
The SAA contract was an arrangement between the Nigerian Navy and OMSL.
Amaechi has however, charged maritime stakeholders to rise up against the SAA contract, saying that it is only the Minister of Transportation that has right to award such a juicy contract that has to do with maritime safety.
Speaking at an event in Lagos on Thursday to mark the World Maritime Day, Amaechi who appeared virtually, described the contract as a scam whereby shipping companies are made to pay $1200 daily for their vessel to feel safe from pirates at the Lagos anchorage.
Even though the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had cancelled the contract and even dragged the company to the Senate, the company is still very much on ground collecting money daily from shipping companies seeking refuge at the anchorage.
According to him, the SAA poses colossal fiscal losses for the shipping sector and the nation at large as ship owners pay over $1200 daily.
He said, ” There is a crisis in the Maritime sector. The crisis is between the Minister of Transportation and the issue of security. The Minister of Transportation has the responsibility to set up the secure anchorage area”
“Today, we have a single individual partnering with the military that is the collecting $1,200 (merchant ship) to the detriment of shipping companies.
“That one individual to the detriment of our shipping industry is still existent and still managing the business with support of other institutions
“The stakeholders are doing nothing to the individual and he has become so rich as a result of exploiting the industry.
“We saying this is the time to say enough is enough. Government will not be collecting money
“No individual has the right to collect money” he said.
Also speaking at the function, the Governor of Lagos State, His Excellency, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, said the maritime industry is pivotal to Nigeria’s attainment of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), saying 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, 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.
Director General Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Bashir 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.”
He further reiterated that the agency’s commitment was to get Nigeria waters free from all maritime crimes.
“Our aim is to get the Nigerian waters free from any crimes and we are working hard to achieve that. All the security agencies are given us the maximum cooperation because we cannot do it alone. We are also appealing to the stakeholders to give us a helping hand by reporting all the incidents so that together we can succeed in this.
“The issue of piracy and sea robbery on our sea is a global issue and what we are doing now as you are aware is that the federal government has signed the contract of provision of platforms for us to arrest this situation also known as the blue project.
“We have received 85 percent of the assets which include 2 special mission vessels, 17 interceptors’ vessels, two special mission helicopters and C41s. We have been going round other agencies including the Nigerian Navy, police and others that will help in ensuring that we maintain security.
“Under the SPOMO Act, we have arrested 10 in Lagos, they are still under trial in the Federal High Court and we hope before the end of October, we will see the result of that. We also arrested nine in Port Harcourt and out of nine, three admitted guilty and they have been sentenced while the six will continue with the trial. We have seven in Calabar , which case will come up by month end. We are headway but we are yet to get there, “the NIMASA DG said.
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.
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.
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.
The 2020 World Maritime Day has the theme, “Sustainable Shipping For Sustainable Planet.”