The Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Audu Ogbe has decried the overlapping functions of agencies under the Federal Ministry of Transportation responsible for the coordination and regulation of the maritime industry.
The Minister who made the observation at a maritime stakeholders forum in Lagos blamed the overlap functions of both the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA) as the reason why NIWA is encroaching on the functions of NIMASA, which is meant to be responsible for the registration of all fishing vessels operating on the nation’s waterways.
Represented by the Deputy Director, Fish Quality Assurance and Fish Disease Management, Mrs. Olabisi Adepegba, the Minister said the refusal of the fishing trawlers association to re-register their vessels with NIWA for the same purpose and at a fee has subsequently led to the arrest of fishing vessels on the waterways, a development she said has adversely affected the fishing trawling industry.
“Hitherto, NIMASA is responsible for the registration of all fishing vessels, now NIWA wants the fishing industry to register the same vessel with their agency and at a fee.
“The federal department of fisheries held a meeting with the agency and trawlers associations and it was agreed that both NIMASA and NIWA will sort out the issue with their ministry but status quo should be maintained. While the issue is yet to be resolved, NIWA has resorted to arresting fishing vessels on the waterways. Apart from the fact that this is time wasting, the product carriage are perishable,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ogbe has called for the exemption of the fishing trawling industry from the two percent Cabotage fee presently being charged by NIMASA.
According to him, there is need for a waiver for the fish trawling industry as they are not freight carriers but owners of their own boats, fishing within the Nigerian territorial waters.
He said the inclusion of the fishing industry in the Cabotage law has been a bane of the fish industry in Nigeria.
“Before the port concession, Kirikiri Lighter Terminal Phase 1 and 2 were dedicated for the development of the Lagos fishery harbour complex which the department (of fisheries) could not build due to paucity of funds then.
“The industry has however been facing incessant quit notices from NPA after committing huge investment in the development of the dedicated phases. They have constructed landed jetties, cold rooms, processing facilities, engineering workshops and floating barges for bunkering. Where should they move to?”
While calling for an enhanced maritime security to protect fishing trawlers from pirates attacks, the minister reiterated the need for the industry to be given urgent attention in view of its contribution to the national economy.
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