Nigeria, in recent times, has recorded a drastic reduction in piracy. Recently, the director-general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Bashir Jamoh disclosed that sea piracy has declined drastically by 80 per cent on Nigeria’s territorial waters.
The agency has deployed different types of initiatives to tackle the menace. Many stakeholders believe these efforts are yielding positive fruits. The agency said it was able to tackle the menace because it identified sources through which the menace was thriving. Jamoh mentioned some of them to include: ransom payment, insurance premiums, re-routing ships, security equipment, losses to oil and fishing industry, and cost of security escort.
“Studies have identified the following factors as the drivers of maritime insecurity in the region: an increase in ship traffic as a result of globalizsation; the debilitating leadership of many of the states in the region; the proliferation of small arms; poor monitoring and control of the oceans; and criminality, which have been further aggravated by visible youth unemployment.
“High level of poverty, and economic hardship were also listed as causative factors. The impacts of these challenges are far-reaching and require that all concerned should collaborate to tackle this menace,” he said.
Drawing examples from other climes like the Regional Cooperation Agreement on combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia (ReCAAP), the NIMASA boss pointed out how stakeholder collaboration had been used to tackle maritime insecurity.
He identified the five clusters of Nigerian maritime collaboration as the Armed Forces/National Security Group (Army, Navy, Air Force, etc); Non-Military Services (Customs, Police, Immigrations, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency etc); Agencies with Incidental Functions (National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation etc) Regulatory Agencies (NIMASA, National Inland Waterways Authorities etc); and the Disaster Management Agencies (NEMA).
Jamoh listed some collaborative efforts by NIMASA to address maritime insecurity to include the implementation of the Deep Blue project; the enactment of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act 2019; community engagements; strengthening of the Navies of the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) region.
He said that others are collaboration with CEOs of Maritime Industry Organisations, known as the Joint Maritime Industry Working Group (JMIWG); engagements with security forces (Nigerian Navy, Army, Airforce, Police, Customs, Immigration); and the Gulf of Guinea-Maritime Collaboration Forum/Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (GoG-MCF/SHADE).
He further stated that NIMASA was collaborating with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), INTERPOL, regional organisations, shipping operators, as well as private security companies, submarine cable operators, and seafarers’ organisations.
Jamoh called for the deployment of more resources for technical assistance to facilitate capacity building and expansion of automation systems for monitoring the maritime sector. He said this would enhance the country’s capacity for cooperation against trans-national maritime crime and terrorism with potentials to adopt a more participatory approach to maritime security.
“Working together is, therefore, a most vital approach to defend our seas, enhance maritime security, promote trade, protect the environment, and guarantee the quality of life of our people,” Jamoh said.
He noted that the new Ship Registry Certificates now has Quick Response Codes (QR Codes) embedded in them to enable shipowners, stakeholders and regulatory agency’s enforcement officers verify the validity of the certificates. He added that the agency had also commenced enforcement of full compliance with the marine environment protection statutory requirements and documentation on Nigerian and foreign flagged vessels operating within the country’s maritime domain.
According to him, all shipowners and operators are now required by law to update their vessel documentations, which include all permits or exemptions, levies, record books and plan approvals.
He said, “This is also a pre-condition for further processing of any vessel or company requests with the agency. NIMASA will mete out sanctions to operators who fail to comply with the relevant requirements. The new move is pursuant to the agency’s statutory mandate to implement all provisions applicable to marine environment protection and documentation as enshrined in the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), 1973; the Merchant Shipping Act, 2007; and the NIMASA Act 2007.”
He added that the effective application of environmental protection regulations in the maritime domain was crucial to the country’s quest for economic development.
The director general stated: “We are deliberate, methodical, and strategic in the enforcement of the environmental protection requirements as they relate to our own laws and international regulations that we accede to.
“A well protected marine environment guarantees investors’ confidence, which is a basic necessity for the maximisation and optimisation of our rich maritime endowments. This touches directly on the country’s economic diversification and sustainable development drive.”
“We are enthroning a sound and sustainable marine environment protection system that serves the interests of both the country and the operators. And necessary steps have been taken to ensure that we have stakeholders on the same page.”
On the electronic verification of certificates, Jamoh said the agency had adopted technology to guarantee more security for our documents and give stakeholders and the international shipping community greater confidence in our services.
Still on piracy, the DG said sustained reduction in reported cases of maritime crimes in Nigerian waters will end regime of War Risk Insurance premium on Nigeria-bound cargoes.
According to the director-general, 783 million dollars has been lost to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. “We have recorded a drastic reduction in piracy and this is enough for us to beat our chest that we are ready to return to the category ‘C’ of membership of International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
“However, the year 2021 has witnessed a significant turnaround under my leadership as insecurity on Nigerian waters has reduced by 80 per cent,’’ he said.
Jamoh said the last time the country had a drop in piracy attack in the nation’s waterways was in 1994, saying that Nigerian waterways was one of the top 10 safest waters in the world. He noted that this achievement was enough reason to sensitise and inform the international community that the Nigerian waterways was now safer than ever before. He assured that Nigeria must take its rightful position among comity of nations globally.
“We want the cost of Insurance Premium paid by Nigerians as a result of insecurity to be reconsidered as insecurity in the country’s waterways has drastically reduced,’’ Jamoh said.
Impressed by the activities currently taken place at the NIMASA, stakeholders in the maritime sector of the nation’s economy have given kudos to the management under the leadership of its director general.
Meanwhile, stakeholders have commended the efforts of the NIMASA towards economic development of Nigeria and the agency’s corporate social responsibility activities.
Among such stakeholders include the governor of Kaduna State, Gov. Nasir El-Rufai who described Jamoh as a good ambassador of the state.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had donated income generation items to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in Kaduna State. He said the donation was in three categories with the first category in the form of income generation palliative.
Jamo had said that NIMASA will support over 1,500 IDPs living in camps with food and household items. These, he said, would include rice, spaghetti, gari, yam, beans, vegetable oil, noodles and seasonings among others. The director general also said in the third category, the agency plans to distribute educational materials, 25 desktop computers, 30 white board, three printers, and textbooks for senior classes 1- 3.
He told the governor that NIMASA would also provide some infrastructure at the Kaduna State University. “The gesture is part of our corporate social responsibility as a responsible agency not only to Kaduna state, but all states of the federation. I am very happy that you came with this intervention to support our IDPs as well as investment in our tertiary institution,” he added.
Also, recently, the NIMASA donated food items and economic strengthening equipment to People Living with Disabilities (PLWDs) in Gombe. The food items included assorted bags of grain, rice, palm and groundnut oil as well as tricycles, grinding machines, power generators, matrasses, clippers, dryers among others.
Jamoh, said the gesture was part of the agency’s corporate social responsibility aim at alleviating the sufferings of persons with disabilities. He said that apart from the food items, the tricycles, clippers, grinding machines, dryers and power generators were empowerment kits for small scale enterprises to provide means of livelihood to the beneficiaries.
He said that similar donations were also done across the 36 states, adding that the items would alleviate the hardships being experienced by the PLWDs. “In Gombe, the items were distributed to PLWDs, we hope that it will go a long way in alleviating the suffering of the beneficiaries,” he said.
He further urged those that were saddled with the responsibility of sharing the items to distribute it equitably.
Meanwhile, the chairman of the Lagos Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Mr Adeleye Ajayi lauded NIMASA for its giant strides in the maritime sector, which included safeguarding of Nigeria’s waterways and collaboration with sister agencies of government.