*Holds public hearing next month
27 March 2018, Sweetcrude, Lagos — In the face of emerging controversies and allegations over the controversial $195million maritime security contract awarded to an Israeli firm, the House of Representatives has resuscitated the equally controversial Maritime Security Agency (MASECA) Bill.
It was gathered that the House of Representatives Committee on Maritime Safety, Administration and Education is set to hold a public hearing on the Maritime Security Agency Bill, with the ultimate aim of allowing it to carry out security of the waterways.
The Minister of Transportation; Mr. Rotimi Amaechi had last year disclosed that the Federal Executive Council had awarded the contract to an Israeli firm HLSI Security Systems and Technologies.
Promoters of the Bill, as well as strong sources within the National Assembly, hinted last week that the public hearing which was billed to hold sometime this week, has however been shifted to April 12, that is, after the Easter Holidays.
Even though the MASECA Bill is mostly supported by Merchant Navy officers, investigations by our correspondent also revealed that retired Generals and Nigerian Military experts are already in support of the Bill.
A source hinted one of our correspondents last week that, already, in preparation for the eventual passage of the bill, six merchant Navy officers were recently sent for a two months intensive training in America by the US Navy SEAL on a train-the-trainer course on security.
Recall that, although the $195 million three-year maritime contract was expected to commence before June this year, the House of Representatives has already called for a cancellation of the contract, saying it is a breach of Nigeria’s internal security and defies local content laws.
While fielding questions from journalists at a function in Lagos last week, Amaechi reacted to the cancellation, saying that there are too many interests benefiting from illegality and insecurity on Nigerian waters, he said these are the people fighting the contract.
Justifying the contract, he said: “All we are saying is that, give the Israeli and the Nigerians six months and the waters would be free from any form of crime, but some people want the crime, they want the killing, the robbery, and piracy to continue so that they can be making more money at the detriment of Nigerian people”.
But last week, a maritime expert and consultant, Capt James Falabi noted that there is a need for the creation of an agency to assist the Nigerian Navy.
“Nigeria has been labeled by the international committee as a danger zone and this is why you cannot go out and bring in an investor, the first issue they would look at is our level of security, this is really taking us backward.”
“Fifty percent of the crimes on our waters and security breaches are caused by jobless seafarers, when you trace it, you would find out that there is one professional involved who knows his way on the waters, but when you provide jobs for them and investors start coming in, it would be reduced to nothing.”
Also speaking with our correspondent, a merchant navy senior staff officer, Capt Oluwasegun Oniye argued that the MASECA Bill has a lot of advantages for the Nigerian Navy, NIMASA, the private security companies and the whole nation.
He said that even though Amaechi gave the same contract to an Isreali firm for $195 million, the Maritime Security Agency would do the same job for free. He described the security contract as a slap on the face of Nigerians, as well as a waste of resources.
Capt Oniye allay fears that the MASECA Bill was going to abolish private security companies from carrying out their usual job of ship escorts, rather, he said the Bill when passed would complement the effort on ground, and that security cannot be too much as it is never enough.
“In the US, they have the US Marine, US Navy, Coast Guards and at the same time they still have private maritime security on their waters”.
“So the MASECA would not stop private security outfits, it would only complement each other, if they have been able to do the job alone, the crime should have reduced, but the crime is not reducing, rather it is increasing, this is to say that they alone cannot do the job.”
“The place of the maritime security agency is to coordinate, complement and secure the inland waterways and our backwaters, our backwaters are too porous that no investor would want to put their money on the waters. If the bill is passed, 80% of the militants would drop their arms because most of them are seafarers unemployed, they are professionals”.