The federal government through the Ministry of Transportation has opposed the proposed allocation of the 12% of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) revenue to Maritime University, Okerenkoko in Delta State.
This is just as the Nigerian Navy said saddling NIMASA with maritime security will create ambiguity that could result in distortion and duplication of functions with the Service statutory role.
The ministry and the service made their positions known at the public hearing on Maritime Bills organised by the House of Representatives Committee supervising NIMASA.
The bills are; Merchant Shipping Act (Repeal & Enactment) Bill 2021 (HB.1602) and Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act (Repeal and Enactment) Bill 2021 (HB.1476)
Others are, Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) (Amendment) Bill 2020 (HB.77 8), the Maritime Development Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill (202?) (HB.531) and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 (HB. 1471)
Pius Oteh, the director of legal services who spoke on behalf of the Federal Ministry of Transportation said the ministry was not comfortable with the proposal in the NIMASA Act amendment Bill, 2021 which provides that not less than 12% of the agency revenue be given to Maritime University Okerenkoko.
Oteh said the proposal failed to recognize that as a public institution regulated by the Nigerian Universities Commission and Federal Ministry of Education, the University will equally be entitled to funds publicly appropriated by the National Assembly on a yearly basis.
He said: “We think this proposal is excessive and it does not adequately take cognisance of the diverse responsibilities of NIMASA in this challenging fiscal environment. We don’t agree with that proposal.
Supporting the Bills generally, Oteh said: “The Federal Ministry of Transportation aligns itself with the principles of this initiative and we are of the opinion that the bill will ensure that NIMASA becomes a more efficient and responsive regulatory agency, able to better discharge its responsibilities as a Nigeria focal agency.
“Let me move to the third one which is the Bill to amend the Cabotage Act – We support the initiative to amend the act to make it more vigorous, extend application of the Act in order to improve the revenue base of the fund and expand the Scope of the Cabotage funds. We also commend the provision to compel greater adherence to local content requirements.
“The Ministry will support the retention of the provision to enable the fund to be deposited in commercial banks other than the Central Bank as proposed in the present Bill.”
Solomon Agada, Chief of Training and Operations, Nigerian Navy in his presentation said security should be expunged from the functions of NIMASA in the 2021 amendment Bill to let the agency focus on maritime safety.
Agada said: “The Nigerian Navy over time observed that NIMASA has huge provisions in its act to expand its mandate beyond Maritime Administration and Safety to the realm of Maritime security. This conflicting trend also exists in the draft Bill 2021. It’s against this background that the Nigerian Navy makes these observations:
“The word security was used without conceptual clarification. It is essential that the word security replaced with administration in the preamble of the Bill and subsequent sections.
This is necessary to ensure NIMASA focuses on the core mandate of the regulatory safety agency in order to avoid conflict with the Nigerian Navy Constitutional responsibility of Maritime security of the nation.”
Victor Ochei, Executive Director for Cabotage at NIMASA said the agency has adopted the position and presentation of the Transportation Ministry on the proposed legislations.
“Speaking to the three bills being considered today, I want to start first by aligning ourselves completely with the position of our parent Ministry because we work closely. It is in this line that I stand to adopt any submission made by the Federal Ministry of Transportation with regards to these Bills,” he said.
Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of the House while declaring the hearing open, cautioned against the over regulation of the maritime sector to allow it free. and perform optimally.
“Over the last twenty years, there have been repeated efforts by the National Assembly to advance legislation to improve the operations of the industry.
“In fact, these Bills under consideration today were first enacted within the lifetime of this republic. These efforts at reform will continue even after these Bills become law.
“I have long believed and expressed that the primary role of government as it relates to private industry is to facilitate the conditions that allow private capital to thrive through investment and innovation.
“In performing this role, we must be wary of over-regulation. We must be careful not to over legislate in ways that become inimical to our objectives of advancing the growth and prosperity of the industry,” he said.
Earlier, the Chairman of the committee, Linda Ikpeazu said the hearing was to deliberate on critical maritime sector bills referred to the Committee, by the House-in-plenary.
“Not only are we focused on making the maritime sector a key alternative source of revenue and economic growth to our dwindling oil resources, we are also poised to develop a prosperous blue economy for our nation, akin to similar successes in other maritime nations around the world.
“The fact that our marine pedigree has not translated into a vibrant maritime industry has remained a paradox to all.
As parliamentarians charged with legislating, oversighting as well as representing the sector, we are poised to reverse this trend.
“It is in this light that this public hearing is very important. It is an avenue to tap into the views and obtain inputs of both operators and regulators, who in any case will be at the receiving end of their implementation, and other sector experts,” she said.