For the Nigerian territorial waters and in fact, the sea ports in the Nigerian to attract patronage, it must be rid of all sea vices like robbery, oil theft, piracy and others in that category or at least be reduced to a responsible minimum.
Security is the sole responsibility of any responsible government bearing in mind that the safety and well-being of the citizens of the country and their business concerns are of paramount importance to the government in power.
However, if such crucial duty is being put in the hands of individuals, no matter the expertise, it is bound to fail because people will not have confidence in it. In fact, the only reason why government could commit the lives of its citizens into private hands is when there is an interest to protect.
This is the lot of the security at the Nigerian territorial waters when in 2012, the Federal Executive Council approved N16 Billion Maritime Domain Security contract to Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited (GWVSNL).
The purpose was to provide facilities for fighting piracy and sea robbery for the agencies of government assigned to carry out the duty. The arrangement was supposed to be under ‘no cure no pay’, whatever that means is still left to be defined because the same firm was eventually given a lump sum for the same purpose.
On the other hand, the efforts of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to curtail the social vices on water is of no small measure as the agency has synergized with almost all the military and Para-military forces in the country to simmer the surge of piracy and oil theft on the Nigerian territorial waters as well as deployment of surveillance equipment and ship tracking devices..
Whether the synergy and collaboration in addition to the private security hands employed by the government with such whooping sum of contract money is producing the desired result leaves much to be desired.
Recently, the presidential flag bearer of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Gen Muhammadu Buhari alleged that about 400, 000 barrels of crude oil leave the shores of the country every year illegally. Though many have criticized him for such a statement but out of every rumour, there is an iota of truth. This si the same water so much is deployed to watch over.
Tadafe Williams is an Able Body (AB) sea man in one of the vessels plying the Nigerian territorial waters. To him, security at sea in the region is a far cry from what NIMASA claims to have done as he said that the only security they depend on is God.
According to him, NIMASA might have done a lot but the effect is not too visible on water like the hype it receives in the media. He said the water front is so vast that no agency could lay claim to the sole security apparatus to ward off insecurity.
One important factor that Tadafe pointed at is lack of security for the local ships at night. He added that the night period is the actual time when the miscreants come out of their hidings to unleash their terror on the users of the water.
To be fair to Tadafe, he might not totally be fully aware of the security measures put in place by NIMASA but he plies the water every now and then and should know what applies where he plies his trade.
Capt. Thomas Kemenerigha is one man who has seen it all with his wealth of experience as a ship captain. To him, there are no pirates in the Nigerian territorial waters rather he believes that what obtains is sea robbers and they do not carry out their mayhem on international waters but within the local scene.
He said, “I don’t believe we have piracy as it is in our territorial waters because the term piracy can be related to international water and all the activities involving vessel hijacking and all the vices within vessel our territorial waters as sea robbery.”
He however did not decline that there are still sea robbery in the territorial waters but he believes that piracy is alien to the Nigeria water ways.
In his word, “International voyages are not intercepted by these robbers. All the robbery is limited to the vessels on our territorial waters.”
Responding to the curtailment of sea robbery on the Nigerian waters, he said sea robbery could not be defined because it is a recurrent menace. He believes that it happens every other day.
Speaking further, he said that the government agencies saddled with the responsibility of securing the waters were trying their bests considering the quantum of efforts and facilities they have deployed to nip the sea robbery in the bud.
He added that sea robbery cannot be totally wiped out but could be reduced to minimal. For this, he thumbs up NIMASA and Navy for doing their bit in this area as he stated that there is a reduction in the rate of sea robbery compared to what it used to be before the administration of the present Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Patrick Akpobolokemi.
Summing up the accusation by the APC presidential candidate and the seeming ignoble take of Tadafe, the Able Body sea man plus the take of the vocal captain; it could be said that the quality of ammunitions and the resources deployed to fight the menace is not directly replicated in the result gotten yet.
It is even worse that the Deputy Director, Public Relations of NIMASA, Isichie Osamgbi did not pick his calls when trying to hear the agency’s side of the story neither did he reply or acknowledge the text sent to his phone number on the same issue.
The refusal of the agency’s mouth piece to respond to the calls made to his phone number and the text sent to him could be adjudged as the fear of the obvious.
It is then very expedient that the government focuses attention on the safety of the maritime domain if it is looking out to make the sector a genuine replacement for the oil and gas sector whose fortune is fast going down the drain almost on a daily basis.
Safety is the first vital factor that any foreign or local investor will consider before plunging his money into any business especially in the maritime sector.
More so, if the security is put in the hand of an individual, it could translate into loss of confidence in the in the security apparatus of the country by foreign investor who might be willing to do business in the country.
On the other hand, the government should put more effort in making sure that whatever loopholes that may be, should be quickly blocked so that the resources and personnel deployed to carry out this exercise will not be a waste.
Better still, the agencies of the government manning the waters should look inward to see if there is any internal force that is deflating the efforts of the people who labour vigorously to carry out the security work.
But it is also pertinent to ask if the agencies of government are putting the right peg in the right hole. If this is not properly done, the system will continue to have problems and people will continue to complain before the efforts of the saboteurs have submerged that of the security agents.