ABUJA (Sundiata Post) – The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and Nigerian Navy, have set up a joint committee to review the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) guiding the relationship between the two agencies towards safety and security of the nation’s coastlines.
To this end, the review when it comes into force, may terminate the deal between the agency and the Global West Vessels Specialists Limited, allegedly belonging to ex-Niger Delta militant, Mr. Government Akpobolokem popularly known as Tompolo.
The Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, stated this on Tuesday when he led the management of the agency to pay courtesy visit to the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, at Naval Headquarters, Abuja.
Peterside said that the timeline for the MoU has elapsed and must be reviewed in accordance with contemporary realities and security challenges.
He commended the Navy for the excellent work at maintaining maritime security across Nigeria’s waterways.
He said: “I want to start commending the Nigerian Navy for the successes recorded in fighting against insurgency in the North East and as well as recently in tackling militancy in the Niger Delta. Whenever there was crisis our military has always risen to the occasion.
“Ours is enormous responsibility and maritime security is both a national and international responsibility to ensure that our waterways are secured. If we want to secure our waterways we want to cooperate with others to enhance the discharge of our responsibilities, first to our nation and international commitment.
“There is already existing MoU but that one is as it is, moribund and we need to review it. As you can attest in the media, there seems to be an increase in piracy and other criminalities in our maritime sector.
“Before my assumption of Office, NIMASA signed an MoU with the Nigerian Navy, which has expiry date and that time has elapsed. So a marriage has to be perfected and alliance has to be worked out. The time elapsed that’s what happened to the MoU,” he added.
Speaking further, Peterside said that the agency was seeking the necessary local and international collaboration to make sure the issue of piracy to become history within one year.
He disclosed that they have approached the National Assembly (NASS) for Anti-Piracy Bill to become an act empowering NIMASA for enforcement.
“We also think that there should be renewed vigour in the fight against piracy. You may have heard it from the media that we are championing a bill before the National Assembly which is one of the strands of our fight against this piracy. Another one, which is the one we must do together is the military-led patrol. And this is the time to look at it again so that we can deploy all the arsenal at our disposal to ensure that this issue of piracy becomes history in the next few months, at most in the next one year. We appreciate our relationship with the Nigerian Navy and we will all continue to work for the common good of our country where.
“As you have heard we are championing anti-piracy bill. So we need to look at that MoU again because the time has elapsed. We are also maintaining safety for shipping, safety of life and assets on the sea, for promoting indigenous shipping both on our coastal water and on international trade. `We also have responsibility for enforcing an Act of 2007, and the Cabotage Act.”
Responding, Ibas commended Peterside for the visit to the Navy first as a strategic partner in protecting the maritime sector of the country.
He also agreed with the Director General that the country had in the last few months witnessed an upsurge in piracy and criminalities in the maritime sector.
The Naval Chief, however, noted that a lot of measures were being put in place to maintain sustained security in the coastal region through provision of intelligence equipment, setting up of a task force and at least three to 10 capital ships and over 20 boats.
Meanwhile, the review of the existing MoU is coming months after both the Navy and NIMASA reasserted the agreement with Tompolo’s company and others, saying it did not in any way encroach on the constitutional duties of the Nigerian Navy to protect the nation’s maritime coast.
The then Director-General of NIMASA, Mr. Haruna Jauro, debunked the rumour and reports that the federal government has terminated the contract with Tompolo’s firm, saying the contract was designed for a 10-year period.
He disclosed that the maritime agency’s deal with Global West had been running for three years out of the 10-year period covered by the contractual agreement.
Also speaking then, Ibas said: “There is an MoU between the Nigerian Navy and NIMASA and that MoU is still subsisting. For every vessel that NIMASA procures, or engages, you have it manned by the Nigerian Navy; you have our officers and men manning those ships.
“We provide the necessary security; we arm those ships, so that is the arrangement that stands. So by whatever means that the boats are acquired, the Nigerian Navy is fully manning those boats and we still do,” he added.
However, the CNS did state the need to review the MoU in light of events that have unfolded in recent years.