- Says NLNG’s unpaid levies will be calculated from October 2009
By Tokunbo Adedoja
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)¬† is¬† soon to reveal the “big names” behind piracy and crude oil theft syndicate.
Its Director General, Mr. Patrick¬† Akpobolokemi, told journalists at an interactive session¬† at the weekend in Abuja, that the agency has in custody some vessels seized from those perpetrating the illegality.
He said: “There are some big vessels under my custody belonging to organised piracy and crude oil thieves. Very soon, I will release all the big names in the syndicate.
“Once we do that, people should not come and say it is ethnic cleansing, it is 2015 or all these¬† kinds of stories. That is why we want the media to stand by the truth and ask: ‘did you do the piracy?’
“Even if it is political vendetta, at least you committed the crime. We will take it from that point. That is what I am particular about.”
Noting that there was no federal character for armed robbery, the NIMASA boss said, “This is not an issue of political victimisation. If you have stolen, you have stolen”.
Dispelling insinuations that NIMASA had been having running battles with security agencies in carrying out its obligations with respect to the nation’s maritime assets, the director-general said the agency enjoyed robust relationship with all security agencies, particularly the navy, which he said had a representative on the board of NIMASA.
“One thing that I will let you know is that the Chief of Naval Staff that we have now¬† is a blessing to NIMASA, particularly as a person. The support we are getting from the navy is increasing by the day and he is ready to assist us to do whatever that is needed. We don’t bear arms and when it comes to security issues, if they don’t give us their support, we can’t do our job”, Akpobolokemi said.
He however said where the agency had been having some troubles was in the area of prosecution of those arrested for violating maritime laws.
“This is a country that is governed by laws and you cannot say because somebody has been involved in piracy and when you are not under threat you go and kill him.
You cannot torture him. You have to hand the person over to another agency that has the power of criminal investigation. If the thing (prosecution) does not go the way you want, it is like you are handicapped, because you can only arrest but the prosecution would be given to another agency that has the power to do that,” he added.
He explained that the improvement recorded now was that synergy among collaborating agencies was improving unlike in the past when collaboration was weak among government institutions.
Commenting¬† on allegations of violation of federal character in the area of employment by the agency, he said: “We are not abusing the federal character principle. We are doing the best we could under the present circumstances.”
According to him,¬† because of the nature of the sector, there are certain specialised professions that are in short supply.
He explained further that even if the constitution stipulates that master mariners must be brought from all the states of the federation, it might not be feasible because there are states that¬† have just one master mariner while some do not have at all.
Akpobolokemi said that was why the agency requested all the states to bring people to be trained so that after sometime, there would not be any part of the country where there would not be a master mariner or marine surveyor.
The agency’s boss also shed light on the outstanding levies, which a federal government-appointed arbitration panel¬† ordered the Nigerian Liquefied and Natural Gas (NLNG) to pay the agency.
He said the effective date for collection would be from October 2009, adding that was the concession government said should be granted.
“The government is looking at 10 years, possibly from October 2009, we will calculate all they owe NIMASA and they will pay. Right now, I don’t know the exact figure because they could be loading even this morning. We will go back and make our computation. It will not be something that is hidden. It will be made available to the press”, he said.
He also said¬† the agency had been fulfilling its own statutory obligations of remitting 25 per cent of its revenue to the Federation Account, noting that since he came on board, NIMASA had been making “good contributions”¬† steadily.