By Chiemelie Ezeobi
To boost maritime safety and defence of the nation’s territorial waterways, hydrographers under the auspices of the Hydrography Society of Nigeria, yesterday called on the Federal Government to survey and map the length and breadth of its marine routes.
Â The call was made at the 2017 World Hydrographic Day Celebration themed ‘Mapping our seas, oceans and waterways, more important than ever’, held in Lagos.Â
According to the hydrographers, surveying and mapping the waterways will most importantly boost safety and defence of the maritime domain from illegalities that thrive in hidden creeks and sea bodies.Â
In his address, the Hydrographer General of Nigeria, who also doubles as the Hydrographer of the Nigerian Navy, Commodore Emeka Okafor, emphasised the importance of mapping the waterways on national security and defence. Â
While noting that hydrography has contributed directly to the efficiency of maritime transportation, he said it also supports maritime defence and security.Â
If the entire span of the nation’s waterways are mapped and surveyed he said, â€œThis allows voyages to be shortened if new routes are surveyed and modern application to survey operations is employed.
Â â€œIt also supports maritime defence and security by allowing freedom of manoeuvre for search and rescue and naval operations.Â
“Hydrography is the key to well managed oceans, seas and waterways and with all these benefits and more, viz a viz the extent of Nigeriaâ€™s water yet to be surveyed, you will agree with me that it is time Nigeria wakes up to its responsibilities by giving hydrography itâ€™s desired attention.â€™â€™Â
Also, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok Ette-Ibas, who was the special guest of honour, said given the importance of hydrography to the nation, the navy was seeking for funding to boost efficiency. Â
Ibas who was represented by the Chief of Training and Operations, Rear Admiral Adeniyi Osinowo, also sought for an upgrade for the Hydrographic Department to become the National Hydrographic Office (NHO) under the presidency with the direct supervision of the vice president.Â
He said, â€œThe proposed NHO will be composed of mainly civilians from the hydrographic community and a handful of navy personnel with the following organs; NHO, the survey fleet and National Hydrographic School.
â€œThrough this process, the NHO would be directly funded by the presidency with the prospects of hydrograhy contributing immensely for national development.â€™â€™
He added that considering the huge financial requirement involved in hydrographic operations and the enormity of surveying Nigeriaâ€™s fast domain, it was difficult to fund hydrograhy from the navyâ€™s budgetary allocation alone.
He noted that in spite of efforts at improving hydrography in Nigeria, the pace of its development was still slow, adding that, â€œthis can be attributed to inadequate sensitisation of the political class which has largely contributed to its underfunding”.
According to Ibas, given that the navy had procured additional modern hydrographic survey equipment, it had also commenced feasibility studies for the establishment of network of tide gauges across the coastline.
He said, â€œWhen completed, this project will enhance the understanding of the impact of sea-level rise along the coast.
The project will also provide relevant data that would be used by mariners and hydrographic surveyors alike.
Meanwhile, Minister Designate, Hassan Suleiman, while speaking with journalists said hydrography was capital intensive, adding that it needed more funding.
He said with the conference, more awareness will be created about the importance of hydrography, adding that the FG will be made aware that the funds allocated for the department was not enough to carter for the needs of surveying and mapping the nation’s waterways.Â