A former President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt Augustine Olugbode has warned the Federal Government against the use of private firms to manage security of the nation’s waterways.
Olugbode, who spoke with SHIPS & PORTS on the controversial secure anchorage area operated by Ocean Marine Services Limited (OMSL), warned that Nigeria may be “sitting on a keg of gunpowder”, if the arrangement is not revoked.
Under the OMSL contract, vessels calling at Nigerian ports pay $2,500 to OMSL for security and protection against attacks at a location mapped out around the Lagos harbour described as Secure Anchorage Area.
According to the foremost Master Mariner, the contract is in contravention of international maritime laws and could jeopardise the security of the country.
“The issue of secure anchorage allowing a private firm to manage security of our waterways is like sitting on a keg of gunpowder. It is not the practice anywhere in the world for a maritime nation to allow a private firm to manage security because it is not safe for the country.
“We have the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), NIMASA and even the Navy to take charge of security of our waterways and not a private company because security could be compromised.
“A vessel could come in with illegal shipment, something that could jeopardise the security of a nation but because they are into business and want to make profit, they could compromise.
“We should not personalise national security. The Navy has always been the custodian of the maritime domain and not in combination with any other private firm. No country will put the security of its waterways in the hands of a private security company.
“The nation is not a personal property. When such information of private firms managing security goes outside the country, it appears we don’t even know what we are doing and yet we claim to be a maritime nation. So, we are calling on the government that this practice should be stopped completely,” he said.
Several maritime industry stakeholders have kicked against the OMSL contract, which they described as illegal and adding to the cost of doing business at the ports in Lagos.
Recently, the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hadiza Bala Usman revealed that in the first half of 2020, OMSL generated $17 million (N8.5 billion) which was not remitted into the coffers of the Federal Government.
“… We felt that it isn’t necessary for people to be paying money to secure their vessels on the water. It is the responsibility of the government through the Navy and NIMASA to secure at zero cost to the owners,” she said.