Master mariners kick against establishment of privately-initiated Coast Guard in Nigeria
Master mariners have kicked against the establishment of a Coast Guard proposed to be managed through a private initiative.
The Bill is being sponsored by Senator Yele Omogunwa, who is representing Ondo South Senatorial District.
Speaking on the issue in an interview, President of the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners (NAMM), Capt. Tajudeen Alao, said it would be better to further equip the Nigerian Navy than have a private-initiative coast guard.
Capt. Alao argued that the initiators of the organisation are not seafarers and do not have the requisite capacity for such responsibility of a sea assignment.
He said: “The sponsors are unknown to us; they are not seafarers. You cannot be a merchant navy when you are not trained in that role; you are doing security job which has nothing with our profession.
“We cannot identify with them. They have merchant union registered with CAC and acknowledged by government. It is in the government constitution. If they are going to do anything, it should emanate from there.
“None of them has partaken in any national service of moving people from places like ECOMOG peace-keeping mission, or evacuation of Ghanaians going home, even that which was done in 1975, carrying arms servicing to Libya. They have not rendered any of such service.”
The mariner, however, called for further empowerment of the existing navy structure which has well-trained for maritime security.
He maintained that with the nation’s 200 exclusive economic zones, which demand security watch against all manner of crimes at sea including illegal fishing by foreign companies, the manpower requirement sure goes beyond some private group compared with what the Nigerian Navy can do;
“These people looking for approval cannot do it, because we have 200 exclusive economic zones; the inland waters, we have fishing, it is not just piracy, so they cannot have the reach.
“It is only the Navy as part of a larger part of the Gulf of Guinea that we should equip to do the job.
“Whatever special fund there is to be raised should be for the Navy and not for any private initiative because, they are not trained, they are not ex-seafarers, and they cannot protect the interest of seafarers. They are not part of seafarers and they have not been to sea before,” Capt. Alao said.
Speaking on funding modes for such privately-initiated Coast Guard, Captain Alao said “How are these people going to be funded? They are going to put in their bill to task people who have nothing to do with them, in order to generate revenue. As a private initiative, they are going to task the industry to generate money to perform the function.”
Also, earlier in July 2021, Rear Admiral Godwill Ombo (Rtd.), a master mariner himself, in an interview frowned on the bill seeking the establishment of the Nigerian Merchant Navy Coast Guard Security and Safety Corps (NMNCGSSC).
Ombo had expressed worries over capacity and funding, just as Captain Alao has.
While stating his point that the Navy was best to handle a coast guard assignment, he called attention to a possible clash of interest now that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency(NIMASA) has the responsibility in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, to manage the Deep Blue Project for maritime security.
“With the recently acquired Deep Blue Sea Project maritime security assets, what role is a Nigerian Merchant Navy to play in the nation’s maritime industry?” Ombo asked.
A key maritime industry stakeholder and a former president of the Association of Nigerian Licensed Freight Forwarders (ALCA), Prince Olayiwola Shittu, also argued in a media interview about two years ago that establishing a separate agency for coast guard duties would be tantamount to overlapping functions, considering the responsibilities of the Nigerian Navy, the marine arm of the Nigeria Police and the Nigeria Customs, just as NIMASA.
The media report quoted Shittu saying: “Setting up a Coast Guard would have its own implications. What would be the job of the Coast Guard, will it not interlace with the job of the Nigerian Navy, with the job of NIMASA? Under the law, NIMASA has its own security architecture, as the agency charged with fighting piracy and maritime -related security issues.
“Once you get Coast Guard now, it will mean all our waterways will be their responsibility and Navy will say no, nothing happens here without our knowledge.
“We can still make use of what we; apart from the Nigerian Navy, we have Marine Police and Customs Marine…what we need to do is to empower them, give them the tools of work. If there is a Coast Guard, the coast will be under them, and there will be friction; the Navy will say go, Coast Guard will say come.”
Sponsors of the Bill say it is seeking for an Act to provide for the constitution and regulation of a Coast Guard for ensuring the administration, security and proper policing of the maritime zones of Nigeria, with a view to the protection of maritime and other national interests in such zones and for related matters.
Meanwhile, the United States Coast Guard on 30th August, 2021, kicked off a month-long training for some officers of the Nigerian Navy.
The training offered by the U.S. Coast Guard is expected to highlight more challenging scenarios and tactics in the use of force, evidence processing, arrest procedures, and perseverance with regards to dealing with criminal activities at sea.
Participants would explore best practices in countering illicit maritime activities such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing; the trafficking of weapons, narcotics, and people; as well as the on-going threat of piracy and oil infrastructure insecurity.