Maritime security: Coast Guard Bill suffers delay at National Assembly

Three years after, plans by Nigeria to establish a coast guard is yet to be realised as the Nigerian Merchant Navy Coast Guard Security and Safety Corps Bill 2018 is gathering dusts at the National Assembly. The establishment of the agency is expected to play a complementary role to other agencies present at the nation’s coast lines for the protection of maritime domain, prevention of smuggling and other illegal activities on Nigerian waters and shores. The coast gaurd bill was sponsored by Hon. Daniel Reyenieju, but has been subjected to debates at the National Assembly since 2018 when the lawmaker explained that the sole objective of the bill was to secure the safety of Nigerian coastal and inland waterways.

Reyenieju had said that the bill, if passed into law, would go a long way in stemming the high tide of sea piracy on water ways and serve as a means of employment for thousands of unemployed Nigerian youths. He added that the establishment of coast guard would drastically reduce vandalism on Nigerian waterways and high sea. However, the Secretary General, Merchant Seafarers Association of Nigeria (MSAN), Capt Alfred Oniye, alleged foul play on the establishment of the agency in the country.

He noted that there were over 6,000 creeks in back waters, which require attention and policing, adding that the creation of the coast guard would create jobs for jobless seafarers, who are already exposed to the sea. Oniye said: “Anybody that is against the establishment of coast guard in this country is an enemy of this country.

Is Nigeria too small to have a Coast Guard? America, as big as it is, has US Coast Guard, US NavyseaL and even private maritime securities that carry arms. “Our territorial waters is so porous and the Nigerian Navy cannot be the security at the inland and at the back waters. “Why do you think we cannot have a passenger boat that will take you from Lagos to Lokoja because it only takes four hours to get to Lokoja? If you are to go through the sea, it takes only 45 minutes from Lagos to Ondo.” He said that coast guard would take care of insecurity on Nigerian waters, saying that the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) does not cover our back waters. Oniye explained that the establishment of the agency would reinforce security at the back waters to tackle piracy at the back waters.

He said: “We have over 6,000 creeks in Nigeria, from Ikorodu to Badagry and we have over 120 and these are not Nigerian Navy jurisdiction. The Nigerian Navy is just trying to cover those areas because we don’t have those who will cover those areas.”

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