The Acting Director-General of the Maritime Security Agency, MASECA, Capt. Jacob Ovweghre, has said that the MASECA bill currently at the National Assembly, if passed into law, would guarantee the security of the nation’s territorial seas and also provide jobs for millions of Nigerians.
Speaking to Oasis Magazine (OM) during an online chat, Ovweghre added that the bill seeks to enhance security and boost economic activities in the country’s waterways.
MASECA bill sponsored by Hon. Ntufam Etta Mbora has passed second reading in the House of Representatives and will be looked into by the House Committee on Maritime.
Capt. Ovweghre believes that Nigeria is on the verge of getting it right in securing her maritime environments with this bill.
According to him, “Seafarers became tired of the kidnap/loss of lives of their colleagues at almost every attack on vessels at sea by sea robbers/pirates, a situation that has occurred since 2008.
“This trend made them decide to pursue a bill for the establishment of MASECA and volunteered to put their lives at risk to guarantee the security of the nation’s maritime environment in the territorial seas in conjunction with the Navy, to the backwaters including the creeks, rivers, inland water ways and Lake Chad basin.”
Continuing, he opined that this will be done at no cost to the government, adding that it will lead to the provision of employment and human capital development for millions of seafarers and other able bodied Nigerians worthy of undertaking such responsibility.
He said: “MASECA is going to be a para-military organisation that will train and arm its officers sufficiently to meet the asymmetric threats of the pirates or sea robbers they will confront within the nation’s maritime environment, and must work and co-train in synch with the Navy, be placed under the Ministry of Defence, because of its peculiar role and the kind of weapons that will be engaged,” stressing that in times of crisis, the Agency will become an integral part of the Navy.
“If passed into law, seafarers who are the crux of the manpower and currently work and live within our creeks and waterways, and are primarily naval merchants and retired Nigerian Navy personnel, are poised to come together to pull their experiences and knowledge together to serve this country, rather than allow Nigeria to become a laughing stock in the comity of maritime nations.
“As much as sovereign security, air, land and sea is the concern of everyone, its implementation is the exclusive preserve of government undertaken on its behalf, by its established agencies,” he averred.
He said further: “It is unethical and a spite to government to outsource or concession the responsibility of implementing any form of security measure to anyone or corporate organization not established by government. Unfortunately, the expected enactment of the envisaged Act has been stalled and this has led to opportunistic improvisations and interventions in the maritime sector.”
These improvisations and interventions he described as “dangerous, politically motivated, unrealistic and unsustainable outsourcing of maritime security responsibilities, etc to contractors, ethnic militia groups and private maritime security companies in the payroll of oil majors.”
He further noted that, the bill is seeking to redress Nigeria’s continuous commissioning of the implementation of its maritime security responsibilities to individuals or corporate bodies other than an Agency of Government constitutionally established by an Act by engendering and enhancing the death throes of Nigeria’s maritime industry through the manipulations, robbery and dictates of private maritime security companies doing what we can train and equip our teeming youths to accomplish.
He stressed that countries like Argentina (Directorate of Maritime Protection), Chile (Department of Maritime Security Operators), Ghana (Maritime Security Council), Iceland (Maritime Security Administration), among others have maritime security service as agencies of government.
Ovweghre gave the root causes of oil theft as hunger, get-rich-syndrome, hereditary and anger, noting that major sea and ocean bunkers are syndicated.
He stressed that the bill will not duplicate, but complement the Navy, NIMASA, Maritime Police Command and other security agencies.
He stressed that MASECA will be involved in surveillance of Merchants Navy operations and in the monitoring of the security operations of modular refineries in Nigeria, amongst other services as stated in the bill.
This bill was first introduced and passed at the 6th National Assembly but was not assented to by the President.
By Daniel Dafe
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