Senior Special Assistant to the President on Maritime Affairs, Mr. Leke Oyewole, has said malpractice is the cause of the insecurity in the maritime sector of the economy.
Oyewole stated this at a seminar organised by maritime correspondents in Lagos, to discuss ailing security challenges that affect the industry.
The meeting, which attracted stakeholders, industry giants and security agents, sought ways to eradicate the constant plaguing of the industry through activities of armed robbers, pirates and smugglers.
Speaking at the seminar tagged: ‚ÄòPreventing Terrorism and Insurgency in Nigeria‚Äôs Maritime Domain‚Äô¬† the senior presidential aide said companies operating in the nation‚Äôs waters were guilty of illegal acts which encourage violence in the maritime sector.
According to him, oil companies operating in the country often pollute the waters and neglect their host communities. To express their dissatisfaction, Oyewole said youths in the host communities attack the companies and their infrastructure in the maritime domain.
While fishing trawlers carry cash made from illegal trade on the high sea, the presidential aide alleged that tanker vessel operators engage in illegal oil trade, thereby drawing attacks from pirates.
Oyewole, however, admitted that weak maritime laws and lack of enforcement of the laws had largely contributed to the growing trend of piracy and other illegal acts in the nation‚Äôs maritime sector.
He assured listeners that government was working to create a synergy among agencies in the maritime sector and correct administrative lapses identified with a view to tackling insecurity in the nation‚Äôs waters.
He reiterated the federal government‚Äôs readiness to apply tough measures in fighting piracy, terrorism and other acts of violence in the maritime sector, including seizure of vessels involved in illegal acts and making of adequate laws.
He revealed that a bill to strengthen the fight against piracy and other illegal acts in the nation‚Äôs waters sponsored by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was currently before the National Assembly.
For his part, the President of Crisis Control Foundation, Dr. Kingsley Ezeatakwulu-Osakwe, stressed that negligence in the nation‚Äôs security framework and the unwillingness of the people to cooperate with government were responsible for the high level of insecurity in the country and the maritime sector.
‚ÄúThe citizens are so exploited, denied their rights that they become afraid of government security agencies. The increasing insecurity in Nigeria is elf-imposed and inherited by the present administration. It is clear that the present tackling methodology is not completely adequate because certain ingredients are still not added to the operational system of the entire security structure‚Äù, he said.
He scored the judiciary low on performance, insisting that it had failed to protect the citizens from oppression and injustice. Lack of justice in the country, Ezeatakwulu-Osakwe maintained, had encouraged resort to self-help and violence by the oppressed.
To adequately address insecurity in the maritime domain and the country, he called for an end to corruption, and the development of an effective judiciary and good citizen-government relationship. He also urged security agencies in the country to be proactive in their approach to tackling terrorism and insurgency.
In his own presentation, Rector of the Certified Institute of Shipping of Nigeria, Dr. Alex Okwuashi, called for imposition of life sentence for piracy and other terrorist acts in the nation‚Äôs maritime sector, while the government must also mobilise the people to actively participate in the battle against terrorists and other agents of violence.
However, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Transport, Mr. Nebolisa Emodi, assured that the cooperation among the NIMASA, the Nigerian Navy, and the private sector was capable of addressing security challenges in the nation‚Äôs maritime domain.
Also speaking, Dr. Boniface Aniebonam and Eugene Nweke of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF) urged action on the different laws and policy decisions taken to strengthen the nation‚Äôs maritime sector.
For his part, Mallam Isah Suwaid of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) stressed that his organisation had continued to develop adequate maritime infrastructure and sponsor manpower development as a way of tackling insecurity in the maritime sector.
He, however, expressed regret that inter-agency decisions reached in the past were not properly implemented.
Earlier, president of the Maritime Correspondents‚Äô Organisation of Nigeria, Aniemu Ismail, had stressed that unless strategic steps were taken to tackle insecurity in the maritime domain, the hope of reaping the benefits of Nigeria‚Äôs maritime potential would not materialise.