The United Nations recently revealed that Nigeria lost an estimated $2.8 billion revenue in 2018 due, mainly, to oil-related crimes. A report by the world body, which covered the period from July 1, 2018 to December 31, 2018, said maritime crime and piracy off the coast of West Africa continued to pose a threat to peace, security and development in the region. It noted that oil-related crimes resulted in the above stated loss.
Similarly, there are reports that Nigeria runs the risk of losing a substantial part of its $6 billion (N2.16trn) annual freight income to insecurity in the nation’s maritime sector. The country earns over $6 billion annually from freight charges but may not be able to retain the money in the economy due to piracy, sea-robbery and other maritime crimes on the nation’s waters. Experts say that because of the activities of these sea criminals, ships bound for Nigeria usually make extra security arrangements and pass the costs to Nigeria.
At a time the nation is making several efforts to fund the huge infrastructural gap in Nigeria, we believe the federal government should not condone such monumental losses. The menace of sea piracy in the country is not a new phenomenon but the increasing rate of the crime calls for a holistic approach to tackle it frontally. More than ever before, sea piracy is at an increasing rate in Nigeria. It has been one of the major debilitating factors for the development of Nigeria’s maritime industry. The international dimension of the impact of piracy on the maritime industry worldwide has necessitated concerted global efforts at curbing the menace.
The Nigerian waterways have remained in the unenviable category of the most porous in the world for sometime now. The International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) report for first and second quarters of 2018 showed that Nigeria ranks top in countries with the highest number of recorded attacks against vessels. The country alone accounted for a total of 22 of the 45 attacks recorded in the first three months of 2018. Officially, Nigeria has displaced the war torn country of Somalia, which is notorious for sea piracy, in the shameful category of countries with unsafe waterways.
This newspaper is of the opinion that the government must do the needful to empower the agencies charged with the responsibility of ensuring safety of the waterways to provide for them the most modern equipment required to monitor the waters and to combat these men of the underworld. The Nigerian Navy also should do more in securing the nation’s territorial waters, in cooperation with other agencies of government. The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) should, on its part, step up its coastal security activities and provide platforms to rid the nation’s waters of these criminals.
There is a need for the country to have a robust surveillance system so that all the processes of ship operations and payments are integrated with it. There must be electronic platforms to report any infractions by vessels anywhere in the country.
A special maritime force should be created and a sustainable funding mechanism as well as an Automated Identification System (AIS) replaced with a better technology. The AIS should be improved upon so as to make Nigeria’s waters safe. It is only in this way would the payment of high freight rate and marine insurance premium which has been the target of the foreign shipping firms be stopped.
As much as government may want to tackle the problem head on, more needs to be done regarding increased activity at Nigeria’s coast. Although patrols have increased, most incidents tend to occur outside the main patrol areas. In recent times, a number of attacks have been recorded showing that government agencies responsible for the monitoring and foiling of attacks are clearly failing in their responsibility.
We also call for synergy among the government agencies responsible for revenue generation and security at the seaports and territorial waters. The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, and NIMASA should form a synergy that would result in the sustainable protection of the country’s territorial integrity in the maritime sector.