The recent visit of the Senate Committee on Navy to the Nigerian Navy may foster greater understanding between the law-making body and the naval authorities with a view to safeguarding the nation’s territorial waters and enhancing national security and maritime activities, OGUNTADE ISMAILA writes.
There is no doubt that the recent visit of the Senate Committee on Navy to the Naval Headquarters, on December 18, 2019 must have availed the Committee members of a better understanding of the nation’s Navy, its operations, contributions to the national security and challenges.
Also, the lawmakers must have resolved to proffer solutions to the Navy’s challenges with a view to repositioning it for better performances on the nation’s territorial waters, more so, as other stakeholders, including Nigerian Maritime Safety Agency (NIMASA) must have taken home some positives from the Committee’s interaction with the navy and other stakeholders in the ever-challenging maritime sector.
Described as the lifeblood of the nation, the Nigerian maritime sector occupies a very strategic place in the nation’s security and economy.
For example, its interaction with maritime activities, including flora and fauna, aquatic lives and micro carbon deposits, are clear evidences of this, and to a large extent, impact the economy of the nation through businesses and local foreign exchange earnings.
According to a report obtained by LEADERSHIP Friday, “The NN is saddled with the responsibility of defending the country’s territorial integrity, maintaining her sea lanes of communication and maritime resources. In the last two decades, the Service has been engaged primarily with policing activities in the face of multi-dimensional maritime threats, especially crude oil theft, illegal bunkering, pipeline vandalism, and piracy as well as internal security breaches and other asymmetric threats.”
It added that “Over the past few years, the NN has evolved specific doctrines to guide its procedures for effective policing of the maritime environment. These actions have substantially mitigated the threats in the domain leading to a relative improvement in security within the nation’s waters and enhanced revenue for the government.”
According to the Navy, “Nigeria lays claim to a 12nm territorial waters, 200nm Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and has initiated the process of claiming a 350nm extended continental shelf. With a coastline of 420 nm, the nation lays claim to a total maritime environment of about 147,000 sq nm or about one-third of Nigeria’s landmass which the NN is statutorily required to protect. Nigeria is also expected to project force in defence of her maritime interests from her immediate backwaters to the limits of the Gulf of Guinea, which constitutes her maritime area of interest.
Nigeria’s maritime environment serves as a storehouse for both living and hydrocarbon resources, accounting for about 40 per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product and 95 per cent of total export. This huge dependence on oil and gas for national socio-economic development emphasizes the strategic importance of the environment.
Any impediment to free movement or trade through Nigeria’s area of maritime interest will have an undesirable impact not just on the economies of the nation, but the global economy to some extent. There is, therefore, the need for a virile navy to secure this critical domain.”
Indeed, the Navy had used the occasion of the visit to reel out its achievements during a four-year period between 2015-2019 to include, fleet renewal; capacity building, contributions to the nation’s economy.
However, the Navy identifies several operational challenges facing it to include, ‘shortage of platforms, inadequate jetties, obsolete logistics’ support, and weak legal/ legislative rights.’
For example, on inadequate jetties, it stated that “Jetties for berthing NN ships/boats are critical requirements for NN operations just as runways are critical to NAF operations. Unfortunately, while the federal government undertakes the construction of runways in Nigeria due to associated huge cost, jetties are left for the NN to construct from its meager allocation. This has resulted in inadequate jetties in NN bases and units. The NN seeks the support of this Committee to address this challenge.”
For the Committee, it was heartwarming for them as the Navy said through its activities, it has continued to police the nation’ s territorial waters and recorded several feats, especially through “Operation Checkpoint Management, control Regime; Operation River Sweep and Operation Swift Response and enhancing response capacity.”
For example, on enhancing response capacity, it added that “The response capability of the NN is also being enhanced through the acquisition of more platforms and maintenance of existing platforms to guarantee their availability. This is reflective in the total number of hours spent on patrol by NN ships in comparison to previous years.
“For instance, NN ships spent a total of 22,262 hours on patrol from Jan to 16 Dec 19 in comparison to 20,014 hours spent on patrol in the entire 2018. Notwithstanding, the NN still intends to increase operational capability by acquiring more vessels in order to enable it to respond more effectively to contemporary and future threats.
“It is, however, essential to note that in spite of the FGN’s intervention in support of the various NN operational engagements across the country, the current level of funding for the NN is still far below what is required to sustain a balanced force capable of discharging its roles effectively. Consequently, there is the need for the government to do much more in terms of funding in view of the various ship rehabilitation/repair programmes, geared towards operational availability of capital ships to enable the Service meet its statutory responsibilities.”
The naval authorities also told the committee on its proactive roles to rejig the sector, including acquiring modern infrastructure like 1 x 60m Hydrographic Survey Ship from Ocea France; 1 x 43m SDB III from Naval Dockyard Limited Lagos; 2 x 40m FPBs from Damen Shipyard Vietnam; 2 x 35m FPBs from Ocea France; 1 x 24m FPB from Ocea France and 4 x Manta Class Boats from Suncraft Malaysia.
Indeed, for the Committee and the Navy, the visit was a worthy venture that could enhance the sector’s role and aiding the Senate Committee on ways and means of embarking on legislative works to develop the sector in its entirety.