By Oko Ebuka
With the trending report released by CNN on the kidnapping of ten Turkish sailors on the early hours of Monday off the coast of Nigeria’s inland waterways, have poised a big rhetorical question concerning the efficacy of the Nigerian Coastal Guards toward achieving a clear coastal terrain and predominantly reduce the criminal activities on-going in the Nigerian waters.
I vividly recall the Facebook post in 2009 on the proposed bill to provide for the establishment of the Nigerian coast guard, which shall be charged with the responsibility among other things to enforce or assist in the enforcement of all applicable federal laws on, under and over the high sea and water subject to the jurisdiction of the federal republic of Nigeria; and shall maintain a state of readiness to function as a specialized service in the navy in time of war; for related purposes. The section 2 (1) (m) of the proposed bill succinctly approved the suppression of destructive and terrorist activities occurring in the maritime zone of the Federal Republic of Nigeria by the authorized coastal guards.
From my own point of view, this bill have a way of reducing the burden practically laid on the Nigerian Navy and equally shift the responsibility paradigm in order to have a definite approach to the issues of maritime security surrounding the entire Gulf of Guinea.
But in my greatest dismay however, the bill “Nigerian Merchant Navy Coast Guard Security and Safety Corps Bill, 2018 (HB.1331)” has just had its first reading in the floor of the Federal House of Representatives, on Wednesday, 21 February, 2018 as presented by Hon. Daniel Reyenieju of the defunct 8th National Assembly. This simply codifies that the prayer won’t be earnestly answered even though the need is highly felt in the survival and sustainability of the blue economy.
Another recent report released this month from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a non-profit organization devoted to fighting maritime crime, has called the Gulf of Guinea a “world piracy hotspot,” saying that the “seas around West Africa remain the world’s most dangerous for piracy.” (CNN, 2019)
The statistical report also showed that 73% of all kidnappings happened at sea and 92% of hostage-takings took place in the Gulf of Guinea — off the coasts of Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Benin and Cameroon — from January to June this year.
The creation of the coastal guards with legal backup will elucidate their roles in safeguarding the territorial waters; improve the dwindling economic activities, open doors for transportation of goods and services through massive job creation both directly and indirectly.
No wonder the words of Captain Alfred Oluwasheyi keep ringing in my head as he hammered on the effectiveness of coastal guards in the reduction of security issues and other maritime misdemeanors which are farfetched if the guards are strategically positioned on the inland water coasts.
On the radar of employment, Captain Alfred boldly said that the establishment of the coast guard alone will create not less than 50,000 jobs without any cost to the government which indirectly, will create another 3 million indirect jobs for the teeming unemployed youths when the water is obviously secured.
Imagine if Nigeria has coast guards that supposed to take care of inland waters because normally the Nigerian navy job is to take care of the territorial waters, it will boom economy, bring back trust of the sailors back to the creek and place Nigerian seas on the map of a secured ocean.
The federal government, especially the existing 9th National Assembly should facilitate the legislative procedures for the establishment of this Act which I strongly believe will see the imprint of the Executive Arm under the auspices of President Muhammadu Buhari, who has shown his steadfastness in improving the Nigerian economic activities as regard to the blue economy especially as he recently assented to the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill, 2019, as proposed by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA.