Allegation that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is broke because it is funding military operations in the Niger Delta is mischievous and uncharitable to the Federal Government, the agency has said.
Reacting to reports that the NIMASA Director-General, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, was draining the agency’s purse to fund the military’s Operation Crocodile Smile, the Head of Corporate Communications, Lami Tumaka, said the agency is “law abiding.”
According to Tumaka, NIMASA is focused on its “core mandate of promoting indigenous participation in coastal and inland trade, and effectively regulating the maritime industry in Nigeria.
“For the records, the laws governing the agency’s operations are clear and we are committed to implementing them to the letter. You can therefore rest in the assurance that NIMASA is not funding this operation.”
However, sources claim that on the contrary, the agency has faltered in meeting its core mandates due to lack of funds, and has instead relaxed the enforcement of some of its laws so as to retain the few vessels that now ply the nation’s waterways to boost its fast depleting resources.
Equally, Peterside has persistently lamented that the agency is broke, lacks service boats and other critical operational tools.
Nevertheless, sources alleged that Peterside made the agency a major financier of Operation Crocodile Smile even while it lacks equipment for effective operations, including adequate service boats for effective enforcement of the Cabotage Act and conduct of requisite Port State Control (PSC) inspections on in-bound vessels.
It was further disclosed that NIMASA has run shortage of platforms (patrolling vessels) since the Federal Government suspended the agency’s contract with Global West Vessels Specialists Limited.
The firm, owned by Government Ekpemupolo (alias Tompolo), was contracted by the former administration to provide inspection boats under a public private partnership arrangement. In its place, Peterside had said that NIMASA planned to lease boats from other firms to facilitate its operations.
Though this is yet to materialise, sources said that Nigerian vessels and seafarers are being denied the right to the nation’s coastal trade contrary to the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act (Cabotage Act), which was enacted in 2003 to restrict the use of foreign vessels and expatriate seafarers in the nation’s domestic coastal trade.
Also, the lack of operational vessels is hampering the agency’s effective implementation of PSC, which has led to undesirable consequences from unregulated shipping operations in the Nigerian waters.
The PSC is an internationally agreed inspection of foreign ships in nations’ ports by PSC inspectors on compliance with the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) conventions.
These include Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), and the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC).