*Naval Chief: $1.3bn needed to secure territorial waters against crude theft
James Emejo in Abuja
The Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara, yesterday lamented that the country is currently losing about N7 trillion yearly to insecurity and leakages in the maritime environment.
He said the Nigerian Navy and other relevant agencies needed to work closely to strengthen the maritime space and contain the tide of piracy and other attacks.
His concerns came on a day the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, also said the Nigerian Navy required a total sum of $1.3 billion to acquire hardware to properly secure the countryâ€™s territorial waters against crude oil theft and other forms of economic sabotage.
Both spoke during their presentations at a public hearing organised by House of Representatives Committees on Maritime Safety, Administration, Education and Nigerian Navy.
The hearing was on a bill for an Act to amend the Maritime Operations Coordinating Board Act, Cap M4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 reconstituting the maritime operations co-coordinating board for effective control of all maritime operations in nigeriaâ€™s territorial waters and the exclusive economic zone, create the maritime security fund, establish anti-piracy offences and for related matters.
However, the Speaker promised an urgent passage of laws to address insecurity in the sector, especially piracy, to restore order to the marine sector where the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme all reported in 2012 that the number of vessels attacked in the West African sub-region, for which the Gulf of Guinea belongs, had reached a world record high with about 1000 seafarers attacked in that year alone.
He identified poor funding as one of the major the constraints of the Nigerian Navy in securing the waterways, adding that creation of the Maritime Security Fund, which the amendment also seeks to achieve would go a long way in providing the much needed fund to also effectively dispatch it sub-regional duties of patrolling the Joint Development Zone between Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria, and the Gulf of Guinea generally.
â€œIt is even more worrisome to note that Nigeria is said to be losing about N7 trillion annually in the maritime sector due to among other reasons, leakages in revenue generation and insecurity in the water ways.
â€œBetween January and March 2016, several attacks were reported off Nigeriaâ€™s coast. This was said to involve pirates stealing cargoes of crude oil and petroleum products. Reports had it that, no fewer than 44 ship crew members were abducted. In the first half of this year, about over 20 commercial vessels were attacked in Nigerian waters. The increasing level of attacks and violence in the Gulf of Guinea have given Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region very damaging and negative image in addition to an estimated monthly loss of $1.5 billion to the country.â€
He said: â€œAs I said recently, prevalence of insecurity in our waters resulted in the loss of $1.3 billion annually to Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa alone yearly. We must tighten the legal and regulatory framework to stop these losses. The only way to promote intra- African trade in our water ways is to ensure safety and security of navigation in our waters.
â€œWhat is disturbing is that pirate attacks in West Africa are said to be occurring in our territorial waters, terminals and harbors and not in the high seas which effectively stopped intervention by international naval forces.
â€œThus, the onus is on the Nigerian Navy to stem the tide and secure our territorial waters, in cooperation with other agencies of government. However, in the absence of enabling laws that stipulate stiff penalties and adequate funding, the Navy may not be able to perform this responsibility effectively and efficiently.â€
Nonetheless, Ibas, further decried the â€œsubstantially progressive decreaseâ€ in its budgeted, appropriated and released funds for capital and overhead expenditures in the past five years.
According to him, the proposed funding for maritime safety architecture is expected to enable the Navy acquire a General Purpose Frigate valued at $350 million; Long Endurance Offshore Patrol Vessel valued at $120 million; Medium Endurance OPV estimated at $60 million; Landing Platform Dock worth $350 million and a Landing Ship Tank valued $90 million.
Others include a submarine worth $300 million; a Sea Defence Boat and Naval Helicopter estimated at $10 million and $25 million respectively.
Ibas further justified investment in the proposed equipment as it would cost only $130 million annually to maintain as well as save the country $4.4 billion from oil theft and additional $6.70 billion from general insecurity annually.
He said such procurement should be seen as the navyâ€™s strategic investment to defend the nationâ€™s maritime environment towards national prosperity.
Citing reports by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), the naval chief noted that of the $67.18 billion generated annually by the corporation from its opera in the maritime sector, $6.70 billion was lost to insecurity.
Yearly average crude oil theft was also put at $3.65 billion, adding that the country losses $1 billion annually to illegal fishing.
Nevertheless, he said crude oil products valued at $18.77 million (about N6.75 billion) had been destroyed in the navyâ€™s anti-bunkering and crude oil theft efforts.
He said the country had recorded 55 pirate attacks on shipping vessels of which 36 of such assaults were successful in the first quarter of 2016.
He said there were 17 attempted attacks of which only four were successful during the first quarter of 2017.
But he noted that there was little the navy could achieve against emerging threats going by the decreasing pace of funding to the service in recent times.
According to him, out of its budget proposal of N204.55 billion for capital expenses in 2015, only about N8.06 billion was appropriated while N4.43 billion was actually released to it.
He said: â€œOn account of such poor funding profile, the service is u healthily deficient in practically all operational key enablers.â€