FG Urged to Establish Hydrography Commission

Olusegun Samuel in Yenagoa

The Hydro Professional Group of the Nigeria Institution of Surveyors (NIS), has called on the federal government to establish the National Hydrography Commission (NHC), that would cater for gathering and management of data and policies in the maritime sector of the country’s economy.

The Coordinator of the Hydropro Group of the NIS, Mr. Olumide Omotoso, reiterated the call in Abeokuta, Ogun State, while speaking on the occasion of the 2022 World Hydrography Day.

The theme for this year’s celebration was “Hydrography: Contributing to the United Nations Ocean Decades.”

Omotoso, stated that there could not be meaningful development in the nation’s maritime sector until the National Hydrographic Office (NHO), where stakeholders in the industry could collaborate and exchange data and ideas based on survey and research is established.

He said that hydrography office is established in all maritime nations to cater for both military and civilian needs.

He said: “Hydrographers gather data from the civil and the military areas. Both the military and the civilian will work together.  All data that are related to water bodies are harnessed in that office.

“In such office, we have the military layout of information and the public domain information that is assessed to facilitate policy making.  With the office, our lives are better in planning so that in flooding and seabed monitoring around the coastline will be managed properly.

“If we set up that office, both the military and the civil components  and all the other stakeholders including the Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigeria Inland Waterways, NIMASA, all the people in the oil and gas industry, the dredging company and everybody that is participating in anything that is maritime, will then bring their data to that house that will work like a central bank.

“In that office, we keep data, we manage data, and we choose data for research purposes, for prediction, for modeling, just like what the NIMET is doing. If we don’t do that, how do we predict what will happen in the ocean.

“If NIMET exists, then we should have the Nigeria Hydrographic Office, giving data to keep the maritime sector. Without that, you can’t plan anything in the maritime sector. Hydrographers are the one that tells you everything that is inside the water. Nobody sees under water so this office will be established where all the stakeholders will collaborate and it is a civil society.

“The military will bring their data and we will bring our own under the NHO and where everybody is contributing. Security is for the Navy’s purpose while the civil is for public domain.

 “So, we need a platform for collaboration among stakeholders and to be headed by a civilian.

“We need the National Hydrographic Office in Nigeria. We do not have one yet.

“People confuse the hydrographer of the Navy with the national hydrographer. They are not the same thing. There should be a national hydrographer that takes care of everybody and also the hydrographer of the Nigerian Navy.

 “The Nigerian Navy Hydrography Office is also different from the NHO. The two have their different offices. It is when the two come together that they will collaborate in a central office for proper decision making to help the government take policy and action.”

Omotoso said that the importance of the hydrography office for a maritime nation like Nigeria could not be over emphasised.

He said that no one could do prediction like the NIMET is doing without data and coordination.

“Without these data, how do you dreg? How do you put things in right way? How do you predict the weather, the metereology, the tide and others? What we are saying is that federal government needs to set up the NHO.

“Ogun State is a player, Lagos State is a player. All the coastal states need to provide budget for their survey department to carry out the charting of their water bodies and their rivers. There is need for regular survey of coastline because things are changing.

“In the area of coastal transportation you need to provide the chart of these routes to be able to do transportation. You need to provide data for flood plain management; you need to provide these data for aquaculture. Talking about fish farming, you need data. These are all embedded in what we called hydrography. Without it, you cannot do anything development in the maritime sector.”

The coordinator said that members of the professional body had been to the National Assembly to press for the establishment of the hydrography office.

He said: “We went to the National Assembly last year in June because of the bill proposed by the Nigerian Navy to the legislators which claimed that they are in control of hydrography in Nigeria. But we went with the Surveyor General of the Federation, the Surveyor Council of Nigeria (SURCON) and the Nigeria Institution of Surveyors (NIS), to tell them that it is not true.

“We told the National Assembly that hydrography belongs to all of us. It is a specialisation. We have the military hydrography, we have civil hydrography.

“What the military are trained to do is for coastal defence and territorial security while the civil one is the one doing offshore practices and port operations. NIWA is doing River Niger, doing navigation. So Navy cannot do these aspects.

“We are able to convince the National Assembly that the bill cannot fly and they promised that they are going to call us back to come and debate, dilate and dialogue on the way to recompose what had been submitted so that everybody will be on board. 

“We are proposing that in the NHO, let all stakeholders that practice Hydrography in Nigeria be represented: Navy, NIWA, NIMASA, private practitionesr, surveyors, National Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research and everybody in oil and gas.

“So this why we are crying to the government for the establishment of NHO or the National Hydrography Commission or wh atever you want to call it. It is time to have one clearing house for Hydrography.”

Omotoso said that the office would be a profit making agency for the government.

He said: “Setting up NHO is a profitable venture. We generate chart, we sell chart and it will be self-sustaining. So it is not a burden on government.

“We need to have the right profile, the right mindset policy in setting it up. Once we have this, we will be able to compete as a serious maritime nation.”

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