Akin Akande, Abuja
The Federal Government must provide adequate funds for the Nigerian Navy so that it can effectively combat the menace of pirates and other related crimes in the maritime industry.
This was the position of stakeholders at a round table organized by the Nigerian Institute of Advance Legal Studies (NIALS) on Pirates and Security Challenge held in Abuja on Monday.
Chairman Senate Committee on Navy, Senator Chris Anyanwu, canvassed a radical policy change in the funding of the Nigerian Navy in order to safeguard the country’s maritime domain.
The Senator, while chairing the round table at the Shehu Yar’Adua Centre Abuja, said, “given the economic realities of the entire world today and Nigeria in particular that transcends to low budgetary allocation to the Nigerian Navy, the challenge of meeting the nation’s expectations from her naval force will continue to diminish”.
She pointed out that the current platforms and manpower mix of the Nigerian Navy cannot render the expected security dividend required to protect the nation’s maritime industry.
“The Nigerian Navy is permitted to operate in the high seas, territorial waters, inland lakes and waters connected thereto the high sea. In fact, Nigerian Navy operates in the nations backwaters as well,” Senator Anyanwu, posited.
These enormous tasks and expectations from our Navy needs serviceable platforms in terms of ships, helicopters, and weaponry, and a well motivated human resource to man the platforms.
She said considering that Nigeria’s economy depends on sea-borne trade, commerce and natural resources, “it becomes imperative to chart courses of actions that could lead the nation to maritime El Dorado”.
These courses of actions of course in the words of the Senator, “ would lend support to Nigeria’s foreign policy objectives which encompass the protection of national image, the promotion of economic interest and the enhancement of national security, prosperity, prestige and peace.
According to her, the change of piracy would involve incorporation of other sectors of the economy that are maritime based operators which could include both government and private organizations engaged in the oil and gas exploration, trade and services.
“It is not in doubt that the deteriorating security situation in Nigeria has assumed worrisome dimension of late, the spate of violent attacks and dispossession of people and organizations of their valuable goods and property have been carried to the sea, as evident in the rising incidence of sea piracy in Nigeria’s territorial waters,” she lamented
Senator Anyanwu further observed that the frequency of pirate attacks on ships and crew members has not only assumed unprecedented dimension in recent times, but has attracted expressions of grave concerns from national and international organizations.
“Until recently, Nigeria which seemed almost unaware of the word kidnap and ‘piracy’ has now become a hub of the twin vices. While the ordinary citizens have resorted to the use of burglary proof at residential homes to guard against men of the underworld, banks all over the country are billions of Naira due to incessant armed robbery attacks” she stated.
However, she noted that the Federal Government of Nigeria has been battling with how to evolve a robust security strategy to protecting its critical oil installations and facilities that have come under sustained attacks by militants and pirates.
Achieving this, looks a herculean task, “but given our nation’s dependence on the maritime environment, and our people’s yearning for life more abundant, obstacles to this novel idea are surmountable through due process and rule of law.
It is our hope and belief that elaborate development of this newest idea of funding for a sustained and durable biting naval force would engender medium and long-term sustainable development and national prosperity for Nigeria.
The Director General of the Institute, Prof. Epiphany Azinge said the round table was set to provoke actions by agencies of government charged with the responsibilities of safeguarding the maritime sector against the backdrop of criminal activities perpetuated by pirates and other maritime related crimes.