The Federal Ministry of Transportation has opposed the proposal by the House of Representatives to allocate 12 per cent of the revenue generated by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency to Maritime University, Okerenkoko, in Delta State.
The Nigerian Navy has also warned against the proposal to saddle NIMASA with powers to provide security in the maritime sector, saying it will lead to duplication of functions.
The ministry and the Navy made their respective positions known at the public hearing organised by the House of Representatives on four bills: Merchant Shipping Act (Repeal & Enactment) Bill 2021; Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act (Repeal and Enactment) Bill 2021; Coastal and Inland Shipping (Cabotage) (Amendment) Bill 2020; Maritime Development Bank of Nigeria (Establishment) Bill 2021; and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency Act (Amendment) Bill 2021.
The Director, Legal Services, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Pius Oteh, stated the ministry was opposed to the proposal in the NIMASA Act (Amendment) Bill 2021 which provides that not less than 12 per cent of the agency’s revenue be given to Maritime University Okerenkoko.
Oteh pointed out that the bill failed to recognise that as a public institution regulated by the Nigerian Universities Commission and Federal Ministry of Education, the university would equally be entitled to Federal Government’s budget appropriated by the National Assembly annually.
He said, “We think this proposal is excessive and it does not adequately take cognisance of the diverse responsibilities of NIMASA in this challenging fiscal environment. We don’t agree with that proposal.”
The ministry, however, supported over proposed amendments to the NIMASA Act, with Oteh saying, “The Federal Ministry of Transportation aligns itself with the principles of this initiative and we are of the opinion that the bill will ensure that NIMASA becomes a more efficient and responsive regulatory agency, able to better discharge its responsibilities as a Nigeria focal agency.
“Let me move to the third one which is the bill to amend the Cabotage Act. We support the initiative to amend the Act to make it more vigorous, extend application of the Act in order to improve the revenue base of the fund, and expand the scope of the Cabotage funds. We also commend the provision to compel greater adherence to local content requirements.
In his submission, Chief of Training and Operations, Nigerian Navy, Solomon Agada, said security should be expunged from the functions of NIMASA in the amendment bill and that the Agency should focus on maritime safety only.
Agada said, “The Nigerian Navy over time observed that NIMASA has huge provisions in its act to expand its mandate beyond maritime administration and safety to the realm of maritime security. This conflicting trend also exists in the draft bill. It is against this background that the Nigerian Navy makes these observations:
“The word ‘security’ was used without conceptual clarification. It is essential that the word ‘security’ be replaced with ‘administration’ in the preamble of the bill and subsequent sections. This is necessary to ensure NIMASA focuses on the core mandate of the regulatory safety agency in order to avoid conflict with the Nigerian Navy’s constitutional responsibility of maritime security of the nation.”
The Executive Director, Cabotage, NIMASA, Victor Ochei, said the agency had adopted the position and presentation of the transportation ministry on the bills.
The Speaker of the House, Femi Gbajabiamila, while declaring the hearing open, warned against over-regulation of the maritime sector to allow it a free hand to perform optimally.
Gbajabiamila said, “Over the last 20 years, there have been repeated efforts by the National Assembly to advance legislation to improve the operations of the industry. In fact, these bills under consideration today were first enacted within the lifetime of this Republic. These efforts at reform will continue even after these bills become law.”