Counting from when the Lagos State Government (LASG) issued a 21- day ultimatum to ship owners to remove their wrecked vessels littering waters in the state, the ultimatum would expire by middle of this week.
Since the ultimatum was issued by the LASG through its Commissioner for Waterfront Infrastructure Development, Prince Adesegun Oniru, there has been furious debate among stakeholders on whose responsibility it should be to enforce removal wrecks.
Few days after the LASG issued the directive on February 17, 2012, to the ship owners, threatening to prosecute defaulters after the expiration of the ultimatum, Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr. Ziadeke Patrick Akpobolokemi, while speaking with journalists, advocated for synergy between the state government and the agency, which, according to him, was the best way to go about the removal of the wrecks.
In his words: “What we are saying is that we can come together, partner and work together. In life, there should be give and take. If the governor calls me today, I can go and visit him, sit down with him and articulate these things. So, what you can get through violence or hatred can be smoothened out through dialogue. That is what we want. If this is what you want to do, we now say this is what we can offer you, and this what you should offer.”
He added that the removal of the wrecks is even more challenging, because some of vessels owners are dead, while some of the companies that own these vessels are liquidated.
But, according to the Chief Executive Officer, International Naval Surveys Bureau (INSB), Engr. Akin Olaniyan, it is the duty of ship owners to remove their wrecks, but, in the event that they are unable to, the flag administrator and the port administrator can assist and surcharge the vessels owners.
He noted that it is not the responsibility of the Lagos State Government to dabble into the issue of wrecks removal, but that the state government can render assistance only when the flag administrator is said to have failed in its responsibility.
On the part of the state government, it has argued that the wrecks constitute danger to the citizens, whose interests must be protected.
The ship owners have equally said that they do not have the financial wherewithal to ensure the removal of these wrecks, owing to the huge financial implication.
There is no doubt about the fact that each stakeholder has made a logical argument, but positions concerning the debate will not resolve the great problem at hand.
Why we do not question each of these arguments, there is need for the LASG, NIMASA and the owners of these vessels to employ and resolve the issue surrounding the removal of these wrecks.
As the ultimatum expires this week, it is clear from all indications that the ship owners cannot remove their wrecks.
There will be no need for LASG to use tax payers’ monies to pursue cases in court, which, if eventually won or los,t may not add to the development of the state and the country.
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