By Gift Chapi Odekina
Maritime stakeholders on Monday threw support for a proposed Bill seeking the establishment of the Nigerian Hydrographic Agency saying that the non-existence of the agency has so far had a huge national security implications for the nation.
The support was made know at a public hearing organised by the House of Representatives Committee on Navy where the Federal Ministry of Transportation, Nigeria Ports Authority, NPA, Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA
Presentating their position to the House Committee Chief of Naval Staff CNS Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo said that the enactment of the bill could not have come at a better time than now given the current security situation in Nigeria.
The CNS who was represented by Rear Admiral Chukwuemeka Okafor said that hydrography is a critical operational mandate of the Nigerian Navy and it ‘ll be a grave mistake to allow the proposed agency controlled by the civil populace in which these stakeholders operate.
According to him, the Nigerian Navy had recently acquired some new vessels and ship owners are now using vessels to convey goods due to lack of navigational charts and other security gadgets.
He said that the situation has led to low navigation in the nation’s inland waterways and the bill if passed into law would bridge the gap in the very critical sector.
He also said that there has not been any appreciable increase in the the annual budgets of the Nigerian Navy. The passage of the bill will help to contain, piracy, increase investors confidence and renew regional and international prestige of Nigeria.
Earlier, Permanent Secretary Ministry of Transportation Ms Magdalene Ajani had told the lawmakers in the Committee that hydorgraphy survey is an academic area that should not be narrowed down to the operational areas of the Navy at all.
She further said that the implication of narrowing it to Navy is that a non Naval officer cannot be appointed into the agency as a professional hydrographer.
She said said that in the event that the lawmakers still passed the bill into law, other professionals should be given the opportunity of appointment and career progression in the proposed agency.
The top government official as well as other representatives of some agencies also kicked against the establishment of the Maritime Trust Fund saying that the Ministry of Transportation is totally against it because it is potentially misleading.
Some of the key maritime stakeholders notably Messers Amos Tobon of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA and Naziru Biyankare of National Inland Waterways Authority NIWA also told the committee at the hearing that they aligned with the views expressed by the Ministry on the Bill.
Chairman of the Committee Committee Hon. Yusuf A. Gagdi however assured all these stakeholders and the Nigerian Navy that the views expressed would be sieved appropriately at the committee level before the bill can be withdrawn or passed into law.