The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, has called on stakeholders in the maritime sector to develop a strategy to deal with the challenges within the permissible scope of security agencies to improve on maritime security.
The minister made the call in a presentation tagged, ‘Armed Guards Aboard Merchant Vessels in Nigeria -Legal or Illegal,’ at the 3th Edition of Lagos International Maritime Week in Lagos.
Malami, who was represented by the Special Assistant to the President on Financial Crimes, Mr. Abiodun Aikomo said maritime security has become an important requirement for merchants’ vessels over the last decade due to the increasing threats from pirates across the world.
He stressed that the issue of maritime security in the Nigerian territorial waters should be taken seriously.
According to him, “Human beings have the responsible for self-preservation of their life and limbs and by extension, private properties and investments. As to the legality and illegality of armed guards on merchant vessels in Nigeria, the debate should no longer be focused on whether armed guards should be employed.
“Rather, how they can effectively, legally and safely be engaged with emphasis on accreditation and accountability. In this regard, the United Kingdom and Norway have provided regulations on the use of private guards on-board.”
He added: “The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has also announced its change of stance on armed guards. Even though Nigerian- flagged vessels cannot make use of armed private guards as the law stands today. The reality is that there must be a dynamic strategy of dealing with security challenges facing merchant vessels in Nigerian waters.”
He said that it could be necessary to amend the relevant laws in long term, adding that there was need for stakeholders to develop a strategy within the scope of power of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in collaboration with other sister agencies.
In his speech, the Consul-General of France, Mr. Laurent Polonceaux, said that Nigeria was surrounded by French- speaking neighbours and also was the largest trading partner of France in West Africa.
Polonceaux said that the business interest of both countries pervaded all segments of economy in the value chain ranging from oil and gas, food and nutrition, pharmaceuticals, security, transportation, logistics and Africa food production.
He further added: “There are also 120 French companies registered in Nigeria, as commercial partnership, direct, acquisition and affiliates. It will take a little look of the list of countries by length of coastline to realise that Norway is number two after Canada, while France is number nine.
“France supported the built-up and strengthening of the maritime security architecture decided by the heads of African states during the Yaounde Summit in June 2013.
“Mission Corymbe is a France Navy scheme initiated in 1990, prepositioned in West Africa, which helped to reinforce the capacity of the costal marines of the Gulf of Guinea in the field of maritime safety.”
On her part, the Founder of Lagos International Maritime Week, Mrs. Oritsematosan Edodo-Emore, said the theme of this year event was, “Developing Maritime Infrastructure in Africa.”
Edodo-Emore said that development in the maritime industry in Africa should define the vision for the industry in the continent by seeking international cooperation to actualise the vision.
According to her, it was the responsibility of the country to take advantage of the global shortage of skilled maritime manpower by developing our maritime education and training institutions to produce skilled manpower for continental and global markets.
She said that introduction of youths to the maritime industry was key to the long-term development of maritime manpower in Africa.
The Lagos Commissioner for Transportation, Mr. Ladi Lawanson, said concerning the development of all modes of transportation, the state government in 2008, established the Lagos State Water Authority (LASWA).
Lawanson, who was represented by the Technical assistant to the commissioner for transportation, Mrs Olufadeke Immanuel, said LASWA was saddled with the responsibility to regulate, develop and manage all aspects of waterways.
He said that the idea was to ensure growth in ferry services within an integrated public transport system by growing the modal share of the waterways network especially through private participation.