Nigeria is currently losing about N7tn annually as a result of insecurity and leakages in the nation’s maritime environment, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara has said.
Dogara said that to address this issue, the Nigerian Navy and others have to wake up to their responsibilities of strengthening security in the maritime industry.
Particularly, the Speaker wants the Navy and other security agencies to work hard in checking the incidence of piracy and other attacks on the territorial waters.
Dogara said, “It is even more worrisome to note that Nigeria is said to be losing about N7 trillion annually in the maritime sector due to among other reasons, leakages in revenue generation and insecurity in the water ways.
“Between January and March 2016, several attacks were reported off Nigeria’s coast. This was said to involve pirates stealing cargoes of crude oil and petroleum products. Reports had it that, no fewer than 44 ship crew members were abducted. In the first half of this year, about over 20 commercial vessels were attacked in Nigerian waters. The increasing level of attacks and violence in the Gulf of Guinea have given Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region very damaging and negative image in addition to an estimated monthly loss of $1.5 billion to the country.”
He said: “As I said recently, prevalence of insecurity in our waters resulted in the loss of $1.3 billion annually to Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa alone yearly. We must tighten the legal and regulatory framework to stop these losses. The only way to promote intra- African trade in our water ways is to ensure safety and security of navigation in our waters.
“What is disturbing is that pirate attacks in West Africa are said to be occurring in our territorial waters, terminals and harbors and not in the high seas which effectively stopped intervention by international naval forces.
“Thus, the onus is on the Nigerian Navy to stem the tide and secure our territorial waters, in cooperation with other agencies of government. However, in the absence of enabling laws that stipulate stiff penalties and adequate funding, the Navy may not be able to perform this responsibility effectively and efficiently.”
The Speaker promised that very soon a law will be passed by the House on how address the issue of piracy and other issues affecting the maritime industry.
He expressed concerns about reports from the International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Programme about the menace in the Gulf of Guinea because of piracy.
Dogara however noted poor funding as part of the problems that the Navy has suffered, and said the establishment of Maritime Security Fund, some of the maritime security concerns would be addressed.
Speaking on the proposed new maritime funding for maritime security, he said this will go a long way in Nigeria’s effort at patrolling the Joint Development Zone between Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria, and the Gulf of Guinea.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas who also spoke during the public hearing held by House of Representatives Committees on Maritime Safety, Administration, Education and Nigerian Navy said the Navy needs as much as $1.3 billion to acquire necessary security equipment to police the nation’s territorial waters against trade crime, including crude oil theft, among other economic sabotage.
Ibas said the Navy needs to acquire General Purpose Frigate valued at $350 million; Long Endurance Offshore Patrol Vessel valued at $120 million; Medium Endurance OPV estimated at $60 million; Landing Platform Dock worth $350 million and a Landing Ship Tank valued $90 million.
Other equipment which according to him the Navy needs to acquire include submarine worth $300 million; a Sea Defence Boat and Naval Helicopter estimated at $10 million and $25 million respectively.
The Chief of Naval Staff said it will cost only $130 million annually to maintain the equipment, adding that the country will save $4.4 billion from oil theft and another $6.70 billion from general insecurity every year.
He further explained that with the investment, the Navfy will be in a good position to defend the nation’s territorial waters.