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Government should provide adequate security for the maritime sector

In the last one year, Nigeria’s maritime sector has become notorious for terrorist attacks and piracy, which suffocate efficient business transactions and hurting the economy in the process.

Crew members of some foreign flagged vessels sailing through the Gulf of Guinea and in some cases Nigerian waters have either been kidnapped or killed during attacks on their vessels. These incidents, which threaten commercial shipping activities on our waters have earned us a badge of notoriety among our peer maritime nations which we must seek lasting solutions to, as a matter of urgency

For instance, on 30th January, 2021, some fishing companies were in mourning mood as two seafarers were reportedly killed by dare-devil pirates who attacked and boarded a fishing trawler within the Escravos in Delta State. The affected fishing boat was identified as MV. Ft Rose lll owned by Atlantic Shrimpers Limited. The two sailors unfortunately lost their lives in the attack at about 6a.m local time while other crewmembers aboard the vessel sustained various degrees of injuries.

Some months earlier, precisely, 17 July 2020, eight pirates armed with machine guns boarded a product tanker around 196 nautical miles southwest of Bayelsa state. Pirates held all 19 sailors onboard hostage, stole ship’s documents and valuable items, and escaped with 13 kidnapped crewmembers.

These two ugly incidents are few typical examples of a regular trend on our waters. Every day, seafarers are endangered in their efforts to either bring cargoes to Nigeria or take exports from our country.

Suffice it to say that insecurity on our waters is taking heavy toll on the safety of crew, cargoes and vessels transiting within and around our maritime domain thereby entrenching a negative reputation on us as a viable maritime country with unsafe waters.

Nigeria has been recognized globally as a maritime nation with over 8,000 kilometers of navigable inland and coastal channels, as well as fresh water lakes. However, it is struggling to strengthen its maritime sector with modern maritime security architecture capable of boosting the country’s GDP.

Nigerian seaports are a significant example. They are relatively small for modern vessels to load or discharge liquefied products and bulk cargoes, and Nigerian waterways are not deep enough for the navigation of ultra-modern vessels. The waterways are equally not safe for navigation.

If these setbacks are not urgently corrected, they will continue to reduce Nigeria’s level of involvement in international trade and the global economy.

Nigeria needs to take a cue from world renowned maritime nations such as Norway, the U.S., Denmark, Panama and Nicaragua which are daily thinking strategically on how to create a significant future for effective international trade and a more efficient global maritime economy.

There is no gain saying the fact that, for ages, commercial shipping and maritime activities has become a fulcrum on which the nation’s prospects for economic sustainability rests. Apart from being second to oil in terms of revenue generation and job creation, the maritime sector is embedded in the oil and gas industry because oil activities only thrive in a safe and enduring maritime environment.

Even the foreign exchange from export of farm produce and other commodities only take place through shipment, which in itself is a maritime activity. You cannot transport crude oil or ship in refined products without the use of vessels traveling on water and using ports, jetties or anchorage areas for berthing or resting on transit. But these can only happen under an environment devoid of security threats and unwholesome acts

The causes of maritime insecurity in the country are multiple and multilayered, and they are manifest in violence, corruption, and in communities that resort to any means available to improve their circumstances—even if through illegal trade, insurgency, or piracy.

It is worrisome that the Gulf of Guinea where Nigeria holds a great stake, accounts for 95 percent of maritime kidnappings in the world. It controls over 50% of the total maritime trade volume in this area and by default has become the quick to mention country whenever maritime insecurity issues are raised.

Jointly responsible for the maritime industry are; the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), National Inland Water Ways Authority (NIWA) and the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) as well as the Nigerian Navy. That these government agencies together with the Nigerian Navy have failed in this vital aspect of their mandate is very unfortunate and must be remedied.

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