Nigerians, particularly maritime stakeholders were taken aback by the open confession by the leadership of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, the nation’s maritime administrator, when it said recently that the majestic oil rig belonging to Depthwise Nigeria limited, that was chartered or contracted by Seplat Energy Limited under a joint venture project with the NNPCL, has been operating in the nation’s territorial waters since 2016 without requisite approval before it capsized at Ovhor in Warri, Delta State.
By Ovie Edomi
This is one surprising revelation that will shake the nation to it’s foundation if the federal government is serious about fighting economic sabotage. This is
so because the implication of the revealation by NIMASA is that there may be many of such companies operating in Nigeria’s territorial waters without approvals. The questions are, does it mean, for instance, that Nimasa has not been collecting the mandatory 2% Cabotage levy from this rig? How many of such rigs do we have operating in our territorial waters? Also, how will Nigeria, the co-ordinating country for maritime safety in nine countries, not have record of the number of rigs operating in her waters?. It equally means that we have no record of the fishing vessels and under water firms operating in our waters. We doubt if NIMASA can in one full swoop also provide statistics of shipping companies, wreck removal firms, ship building firms, etc operating in our waters.
Since the establishment of NIMASA under the NIMASA Act of 2007, the agency has been responsible for championing shipping development, seafarers’ training, manpower development, cabotage policy implementation, maritime security, maritime safety, and of late pushing the blue economy project. But the recent revealation creates a scenario of a country of the more you look the less you see. To tell the world that a vessel has been operating without approval since 2016, speaks volume about NIMASA’s capability and mode of operations as well as the level of unseriousness on the part of NIMASA officials.
Indeed, there is a need for a Presidential order to NIMASA leadership to explain further to Nigerians how it carries out its’ operation in the nation’s territorial waters and how it engages the local and multi national companies operating in our territorial waters.
This is necessary because, maritime earnings is actually next to crude oil revenue in this country. This magazine has argued in previous editorials that not one agency including NIMASA which is at the nation’s loading terminal can confidently say the amount of crude that is being lifted out of the various loading terminals. The recent revealation by NIMASA spokesperson that a rig has been operating without approval since 2016 makes us believe that the way and manner NIMASA operates give fillip to the plot to establish a different security agency shortly after the Presidential Implication Committee on Maritime Safety and Security, PICOMSS completed its’ assignment in July 2004.
For us at South South International magazine, the revealation leaves a sour taste in the mouth of NIMASA officials and it reveals that so many vessels, fishing trawlers, rigs, under water firms etc are operating illegally in our territorial waters. How will other maritime nations classify Nigeria as a maritime nation?
All considered, the revealation establishes a strong case of illegalities and criminalities in our territorial waters. For a rig to operate in broad day light for 7 years illegally with the connivance of other big players in a joint venture implies that some big industry players are partners in this economic sabotage, criminality and illegality. Clearly, the federal government definitely needs to investigate NIMASA on this and other shenanigans being perpetrated under the agency.
This government should therefore set up a Presidential committee/ panel that would properly audit NIMASA and all the agencies responsible for the protection, security and economic interest in the sea trade/ blue economy. The Presidential committee/panel should also investigate the collapse of the majestic oil rig and bring to book all those who connived with others to cause economic sabotage and deaths of our people.