A renowned master mariner in the country, Capt Augustine Olugbode, has faulted the Federal Government’s use of private firms to manage the security of the nation’s waterways.
This is coming against the backdrop of high spate of pirate attacks, kidnapping of crew members and attacks on vessels on the nation’s waterways, as reported by the global security watchdog, International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
Olugbode, who is former President, Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), in a statement recently, warned that Nigeria may be “sitting on a keg of gunpowder,” if the arrangement was not revoked.
Capt Olugbode, who spoke on the controversial secure anchorage area operated by Ocean Marine Services Limited (OMSL), said under the OMSL contract, vessels calling at Nigerian ports paid $2,500 to OMSL for security and protection against attacks at a location mapped out around the Lagos harbour described as Secure Anchorage Area.
He described the security contract as a contrast to the international maritime laws.
“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), Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (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 also kicked against the OMSL contract, which they described as illegal and adding to the cost of doing business at the ports in Lagos.
Olugbode disclosed that the Managing Director of NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman, said 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,” he said.