Reports of piracy in Nigeria’s territorial waters are exaggerated and meant to shore up insurance claims by shipping firms, the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Ziakede Patrick Akpobolokemi has said.
He maintained that reports of increase cases of piracy in Nigeria waters have no bearing with the true state of things as they largely meant to meet the selfish interest of ship owners and their agents whose vessels regularly call in Nigerian ports.
Akpobolokemi who has mounted a vigorous anti-piracy campaign since he was appointed the helmsman of NIMASA three years ago stated this when the Chairman, House Committee on Maritime Transport, Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi led members of his committee on oversight function on the agency.
His words: “Not all the cases of reported hijacks, piracy and robbery on our waters are genuine. Some of these cases are hyped to undermine us and shore up insurance premium to Nigeria. I am not saying that piracy does not occur in our domain, but it is exaggerated. We are working tirelessly to reduce piracy and illicit crimes on our waterways to the barest minimum through these collaborative efforts.”
He reiterated the agency commitment on its anti-piracy campaign and illegal bunkering, pointing out that the agency commitment has reduced the trend to the barest minimum.
The NIMASA helmsman revealed that the agency collaboration with relevant security agencies as well as the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Nigerian Air Force to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Navy has helped the agency in this regard.
According to him, based on the four-point agenda of his administration, the agency was committed to positioning Nigeria as the best maritime nation in Africa by the year 2020. The budget performance of the agency in terms of revenue showed an improved performance as at October 31 compared to last year, indicating that the agency would meet its target before the end of the fiscal year.
Akpobolokemi enumerated the achievements of the agency during the period under review to include enhanced safety and security of the maritime domain through regular patrols, building a corps of qualified maritime professionals under the NSDP scheme, establishment of Institutes of Maritime Studies (IMS) in four universities, establishment of a maritime university, establishment of a science and technical college and construction of a ship yard and dockyard.
Others are regular funding of the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) Oron, Akwa Ibom State, recruitment of qualified professionals in line with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Audit requirements, enhanced flag and port state administration, submission of the instruments of ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) 2006 to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and procurement of boats through a PPP arrangement to boost enforcement.
Ugwuanyi in his response commended the budget performance of NIMASA for 2013, pointing out that the management of the agency under Akpobolokemi has been spending more on capital projects than overhead and described the trend as a necessity for all sectors of the economy if the nation is to move forward.
Ugwuanyi who represents Igboeze North/Udenu Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives reiterated the commitment of his committee members to continue to support NIMASA in order to ensure maximum efficiency in the transformation of the maritime sector.
The committee also applauded the NSDP of the agency as a veritable tool for wealth creation and pledged its unflinching support for youth development in the sector.
On the Cabotage Act, Ugwuanyi said the committee had noted the concerns of the agency for an amendment to the law to make it more adaptable to the Nigerian maritime realities.
His words: “We have noted your concerns about the Cabotage Act and have already made a presentation to the House Committee on Rules and Business. Very soon, the amendments will be presented to the House for consideration.”
He hailed the management of NIMASA for its continued support to MAN, Oron, Akwa Ibom State.
The legislator enjoined the agency to support the aspiration of MAN Oron towards transforming into a degree awarding institution, as that would further enhance capacity development in the maritime sector.