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Last Updated:[03-06-2010 00:27:24 EDT] Zoom in Zoom out Back to Tradenews

Nigeria Loses 10 Percent of the GDP to Illegal Maritime Acts

tradenews A top official from the Nigerian government has informed that the country was losing more than 10 percent of the GDP solely due to illegal maritime activities taking place in the Nigerian waters. The Chairman, Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMSS), Air Vice-Marshal Saliu Atawodi supported last week’s declaration by the office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) estimating the losses close to $26bn annually.

Atawodi disclosed that Lagos State had 33 illegal jetties that were being used to bring illegal goods into the country. He further added between May 2005 and May 2008, 236 vessels of various types involved in illegal bunkering were confiscated, and many of them were quietly cleared.

The Air Vice-Marshal brought forth the figures to justify the necessity of the highly controversial PICOMSS program set up to monitor and ensure maritime safety following the September 11, 2001 terror attack in the US. The PICOMSS is an ad-hoc government agency created on the behest of the US and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to facilitate detection and deterrence of security incidents involving ships and ports in line with the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code.

The PICOMSS Chairman said a maritime security agency was needed to tackle piracy, oil bunkering and midstream discharge among other illegal activities that had for long bedevilled the maritime sector and hindered economic and security development of Nigeria. While explaining the function of PICOMSS, he cited the example of the Nigeria Air Force, whose responsibility was air defence, but was not in charge of airport security. He argued the Nigerian Navy had to do with maritime defence but was not in charge of the security of ships and ports facilities.

Atawodi opined that the piracy had been squarely responsible for the decline in Nigeria’s fishing industry from 40 companies with 250 registered vessels to 19 companies with 170, which costed the country some $200mn in four years. According to him, once the security of ships and ports facilities was managed by the independent Maritime Security Agency the Nigerian waters would be able to regain its over-arching trade potential.

However, a smooth passage of the bill before the National Assembly is unlikely to happen as there is stiff challenge to such an agency which has been allocated about $151mn in this year's budget against NSA’s recommendation of just $38.37mn required to set up the same. The anomalies in the setting up process of the agency have forced the bill to be suspended, and has been demanded to re-work before it is re-introduced for consideration.

By Jose Roy

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