SPEECH AT PUBLIC HEARING ON A BILL FOR AN ACT TO AMEND THE MARITIME OPERATIONS COORDINATING BOARD ACT
REMARKS BY SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA, RT. HON. YAKUBU DOGARA, AT THE PUBLIC HEARING ON A BILL FOR AN ACT TO AMEND THE MARITIME OPERATIONS COORDINATING BOARD ACT CAP. M4 LAWS OF THE FEDERATION OF NIGERIA, ETC (HB. 1056); ORGANISED BY HOUSE COMMITTEES ON MARITIME SAFETY, ADMINISTRATION, EDUCATION AND NIGERIAN NAVY ON MONDAY JULY 17, 2017 AT THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, NATIONAL ASSEMBLY, ABUJA.
Let me formally welcome you all to this very important Public Hearing on a Bill for an Act to Amend the Maritime Operations Coordinating Board Act, Cap M4, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004 Reconstituting the Maritime Operations Co-coordinating Board for Effective Control of all Maritime Operations in Nigeria’s Territorial Waters and the Exclusive Economic Zone, Create the Maritime Security Fund, Establish Anti-Piracy Offences and for Related Matters (HB. 1056).
2. This hearing is to garner critically needed input from
relevant stakeholders and fellow compatriots on this very important and critical piece of legislation. And as I have noted elsewhere, the essence of Public Hearings is to promote citizens participation in governance particularly in the law making process. We are determined to ensure that our laws are enacted through both participatory and transparent processes, and inputs from stakeholders are essential. Let us therefore ensure that Members of this Committee are given the benefit of your informed perspectives to assist them in arriving at the best for the Country.
3. The maritime sector is key in achieving the Federal government’s Economic Recovery and Growth Plan that was launched in March this year which is expected to effectively take Nigeria from recession and put it on the path of economic growth and development.
4. More importantly, the Committee should ensure that this Bill is in tandem with the 8th House of Representatives Legislative Agenda on National Economic and Development as encapsulated in item (6) which says that “The 8th House of Representatives will put in place legislative measures to promote rapid economic growth and development. The House shall take legislative measures to enforce the Constitutional provision on revenue generation and remittance by carrying out a holistic review of enabling laws of various revenue generating MDAs and come up with relevant amendments that plugs loopholes that lead to revenue leakages. To this end, funds generated by departments and agencies shall be remitted to the Federation Account (and Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Federation where necessary) for the appropriate constitutionally mandated Public Funds of the Federation and the expenditure out of these Funds shall follow due appropriation process”.
5. Our water ways and even the gulf of Guinea have been witnessing increasing level of piracy and kidnapping of expatriates and Nigerians alike. This Bill addresses these challenges by among other things, stipulating stiff penalties for offences of piracy and other criminal activities in our Territorial Waters and Exclusive Economic Zone.
6. The importance of making Nigeria’s maritime sector safe and secured cannot be over emphasised given that the bulk of our trade and commerce come through our waters and ports. This will greatly boost government revenue, increase our foreign reserve and ultimately provide jobs to millions of our youths.
7. It is even more worrisome to note that Nigeria is said to be losing about N7 trillion annually in the Maritime sector due to among other reasons, leakages in revenue generation and insecurity in the water ways.
8. If we are to make any progress in this regard, we must as a matter of urgency and necessity, pass laws that will address insecurity in the sector especially piracy. The International Maritime Bureau, Oceans Beyond Piracy and the Maritime Piracy Humanitarian Response Program all reported in 2012 that the number of vessels attacked in the West African sub-region for which the Gulf of Guinea belongs had reached a world record high with about 1000 seafarers attacked in that year alone. This is said to be second only to attacks in South-East Asia.
9. Between January and March 2016, several attacks were reported off Nigeria’s coast. This was said to involve pirates stealing cargoes of crude oil and petroleum products. Reports had it that, no fewer than 44 ship crew members were abducted. In the first half of this year, about over 20 commercial vessels were attacked in Nigerian waters. The increasing level of attacks and violence in the Gulf of Guinea have given Nigeria and other countries in the sub-region very damaging and negative image in addition to an estimated monthly loss of $1.5 billion to the country.
10. As I said recently, prevalence of insecurity in our waters resulted in the loss of $1.3 billion annually to illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in West Africa alone yearly. We must tighten the legal and regulatory framework to stop these losses. The only way to promote intra- African trade in our water ways is to ensure safety and security of navigation in our waters.
11. What is disturbing is that pirate attacks in West Africa are said to be occurring in our territorial waters, terminals and harbors and not in the high seas which effectively stopped intervention by international naval forces.
12. Thus, the onus is on the Nigerian Navy to stem the tide and secure our territorial waters, in cooperation with other agencies of government. However, in the absence of enabling laws that stipulate stiff penalties and adequate funding, the Navy may not be able to perform this responsibility effectively and efficiently.
13. Therefore, the major component of this Bill is the creation of the Maritime Security Fund which will go a long way in providing the much needed fund that will empower the Navy to secure our waters as part of its primary responsibility. This is even necessitated by the fact that the Navy is not only manning Nigeria’s territorial waters, but also have sub-regional responsibility to patrol the Joint Development Zone between Sao Tome and Principe and Nigeria, and the Gulf of Guinea generally.
14. However, whatever we do, especially with respect to setting up a Maritime Security Fund should meet the test of constitutionality guiding our fiscal matters. It should also be consistent with existing laws except where we intend to specifically amend those laws to accommodate the important issues thrown up by this Bill. In this regard, we must note that Merchant Shipping and Security is internationally controlled under the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and we should draw a fine line so as not to upset the existing international order.
15. It is evident that the determination of this House to re-engineer and reposition this sector for optimum performance is not in doubt. I am confident that the House Committees processing this Bill have the capacity, not merely to handle it but handle it diligently and in the best interest of the nation.
16. In processing this Bill, the House Committees should take a closer look at the composition of the Board to ensure that all necessary stakeholders are reflected in its composition.
17. . It is also important that the Committees examines critically the rationale of setting up yet another government agency to basically handle enforcement of the mandate of existing agencies and institutions. I have often said that setting up new agencies or activating moribund institutions in this period of economic recession should be downplayed. Where necessary, the mandate of existing agencies may be amended to reflect the intentions contained in another bill concerning the agency involved. But I will leave it to the House Committees to sort out.
18. Once again while welcoming all our stakeholders here present and wishing us fruitful deliberations, I have the honour and privilege to formally declare this Hearing open.
19. God bless you all and bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.