The Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM) has described the purported Senate support for the reactivation of the dismantled Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) as a decision born out of lack of information, stressing that the SAA was against international law and practices.
Their position came two weeks after the Senate purportedly okayed the Ocean Marine Services Limited (OMS), operators of the controversial SAA at the Lagos anchorage to continue its operations
Concerned by threat to national security and the cost of doing business at the country’s seaport, the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) had notified the Nigerian Navy of its decision to dismantle the SAA, operated on behalf of the Navy by a private company, OMSL Limited.
NPA had insisted that the security of the country’s waterways was the statutory responsibility of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Marine Police, and Nigerian Navy, which must all ensure a safe and secure Nigeria territorial waters.
A secure anchorage area is an area outside the Lagos port that the Nigerian Navy, with a private company, has defined as a secure place where vessels could anchor safely from the threat of pirate attack.
The SAA contract mandates visiting ships to anchor at a marked area around the Lagos harbour and are made to pay a whopping $2,500 dollars per day in order to prevent their ships from being attacked
However, addressing newsmen in Lagos, the President of NAMM, Capt Tajudeen Alao, said the SAA contract is making Nigeria look ridiculous to the rest of the world.
He urged foreign shipping companies visiting Nigeria to stop paying any charges and urged the federal government to provide security for all vessels, including fishing trawlers, local boats on Nigerian waters.
The master mariner questioned the Navy on the whereabouts of three vessels given to them by the NPA for the purpose of securing the waters.
He disclosed that the vessels bought by NPA for the Navy were – DOINA, TORIE and AGEDE, adding that the vessels were built in South Africa.
He warned the Senate against setting dangerous precedents that other companies could spring up and exploit in the future.
According to him, “A good administration does not create dangerous precedents, how can we stop it tomorrow if another company springs up and set another dangerous extortion or tariff, if we create these dangerous precedents, we are opening the flood gates for dangerous things to happen.
“For the Senate to say that the SAA contract is not costing the government anything is a wrong notion.”
Alao, said the master mariners were not invited by the Senate during the public hearing for them to get professional input on the controversial SAA contract.
“Our professional advice is for the federal government to put money into maritime security throughout our waters. It is the duty of the Navy to secure our waters, let the Navy be on ground, and the platform bought for them by NPA should be put to use, ”he said
Alao recalled the case of “MV Duden” a Turkish ship that was attacked on Nigerian waters twenty two times.
“It became a serious issue at the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the National Security Adviser (NSA) had to set up an inquiry, unfortunately the ship never made it back to Turkey, it caught fire around Brazil”
Also speaking, Capt Iheanacho Ebubeogu said Nigeria is only being tolerated by the rest of the world due to its big market size.
He stated that when it comes to implementation of international conventions, the country was lagging behind.
“Nigeria is being tolerated because of the market, but when it comes to competitiveness and becoming a member of category C of IMO. Section 17 of the UNCLOS says that Coastal States must provide facilities including roadstead (Anchorage).
“Section 9 of NPA Act says that the authority can farm any of its functions to third party except for regulation, and one of the areas we regulate is the anchorage area, this is the function of NPA,” he said.
On his part, Rear Admiral Godswill Ombo (RTD) said it was laughable that the lawmakers could take a decision on maritime security without consulting the professionals.