The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, on Monday, expressed opposition to the Hydrographic Survey bill.
The agency opposed the bill over what it called “apparent militarisation” of the yet to be created agency.
The position of the agency was presented by the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Transportation, Magdalene Ajayi, at the public hearing on the bill organised by the House Committee on Navy.
NIMASA, at the hearing, adopted the position of the ministry of transportation.
The bill, sponsored by Yusuf Gagdi (APC, Plateau), who is also the chairman of the committee on Navy, seeks to create the agency, under the Nigerian Navy, with the mandate to be in charge of survey and charting of waterways.
The bill was introduced on 23 July, 2020 and passed for second reading on 8 December, 2020.
Mrs Ajayi said, “hydrography is important to both military and civil authority, but the bill seeks to make hydrography the primary responsibility of the Navy”.
She said, “There seems to be an apparent militarisation of the proposed agency. Hydrography as a discipline is subject to both military and civil authorities worldwide. Hydrographic services are relevant to naval authority, to commercial shipping entities.
“The present bill appears to situate the subject as of primary interest only to the Navy, leading to an error, in our view, in establishing a national agency as an arm to the Nigerian Navy. The emphasis is National.
“Appointment of the hydrographer of the nation under section 5 ‘shall be subject to the provision of the armed forces Act’. The implication of this, and other related provisions in our laws, is that a non-military person cannot be appointed as the hydrographer of the nation, no matter how eminently qualified that person is. It is, therefore, in the opinion of the ministry of transportation that it will have negative consequences on a national agency.
“The agency should be set up as an open institution in collaboration between the military and civil authorities, in order to attract the best professionals, wherever they may be.”
She added that the bill conflicts with some functions of NIMASA.
Responding to the position of the Ministry of Transportation, the Hydrographer of the Navy, Chukwuemeka Okafor, a rear admiral, said “hydrography is too vital to the national security of the country, hence, the agency cannot be domiciled with any civilian agency”.
He noted that the data that are collected mostly have implications on defence.
He added that the country is losing out due to lack of proper charting of waterways.
“Hydrography has national security implications, during a hydrographic survey on a particular body of water, a huge volume of information is acquired from that area, only a small percentage of this is released as civil hydrography, other information that facilitates military operations in that area are kept in a restricted area, and released to the appropriate arms of the military for national defence.
“Saying this without prejudice that there is nothing like civil and military hydrography, once you deploy a sensor in the water, the sensor will capture every information about that body of water, and when that information comes to the shore, the office where it is processed will analyse, the civil and defence information. It will be a huge National Security mistake to domicile this agency in the arms of a purely civil institution.”
The office of the Surveyor-General also made a case that the agency should be under its control.
The Surveyor-General of the Federation, Adeniran Taiwo, while speaking at the hearing, welcomed the bill but noted that his office should superintend over the proposed agency.
“The Office of the surveyor General of the Federation should superintend over this proposed Agency. This is in line with the provision of the Survey Coordination Act CAP. S17 LFN 2004,” he said.
The chairman of the committee said the recommendation of all the agencies will be attached to the bill when it is transmitted to the president if passed by the lawmakers.
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