The Minister of State for Transportation, Senator Gbemisola Saraki has warned the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) not to assume maritime security as its core focus at the expense of other obligations.
Saraki, while engaging maritime lawyers yesterday, said the agency may become overwhelmed by the burden of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) while other neighbouring countries were recording notable accomplishments in seafaring, better capacity for indigenous ship owners and other aspects of maritime administration.
The Minister stressed that while Nigeria has commendably taken the lead role in combating piracy in the GoG, the Ghana Maritime Authority has been able to secure a better position for its seafarers with Ghanaian Certificate of Competency (CoC) accepted anywhere in the world.
A CoC is a mandatory document required for mariners to work on ships. The certificate ensures that the concerned seafarer has sufficient knowledge and skills to sail on ocean going vessels.
While commending NIMASA, Nigerian Navy and other agencies who have played crucial roles in attaining peace, she admonished the entire shipping stakeholders to work together in the fight to get Nigeria off the war risk zone.
She, however, observed that five months may be argued to be too short a period for a review by global players, hence, she encouraged the agencies to sustain the peace in the maritime domain for a year.
Her words: “The fight that we have now is how to remove Nigeria from the war risk and I understand that Director General of NIMASA is scheduled to go to London by September to make a case and there is a need for input from everybody. We all have to come together to make a case for the war risk insurance to be removed. ”
“Apparently, the thinking of the international community could be that this success has only been recorded for the past 5 months and may not justify why Nigeria should be off the war risk zone. I perceive that we should be in a better position to negotiate after a year of zero piracy attacks.
Speaking on the non-disbursement of the Cabotage Vessel Finance Fund (CVFF), Saraki expressed displeasure whilst assuring stakeholders that plans are ongoing to get the new disbursement guidelines approved by the National Assembly.
Describing the non-disbursed $350million (N210billion) fund as a national shame, she said: “It is really very disheartening that the fund has not been disbursed but we will work with the National Assembly to ensure its disbursement; just watch, it has to be disbursed, especially with the coming on stream of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). In the course of this visit, I have also interacted with so many stakeholders including the indigenous ship owners. I know the number of vessels that Nigerians had 10 years ago and I know how many they have now.”
Addressing journalists, she harped on the need for the nation’s transportation sector to have a clear roadmap, assuring that a National Transport Policy and a Maritime Policy will be concluded soon.