ACN Queries Plans to Privatize Nigeria's Maritime Security


.Nigeria’s leading opposition party wonders why Nigerian government concessions maritime surveillance to an ex-militant

The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has raised an alarm over the plan by the federal government to hand over the nation’s maritime security to a private firm owned by an ex-militant warlord, wondering whether this is part of the agenda being pursued in recent times by a group that has been championing parochial nationalism in the wake of the fuel subsidy debate.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party queried the rationale behind the memo that was presented to the Federal Executive Council this month, seeking the council’s approval for a so-called strategic concessioning partnership between NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist Agency (GWVSL) ”to enforce regulatory compliance and surveillance of the entire Nigerian Maritime Domain”.

The action raises more serious concern when viewed against the background of the government’s decision to withdraw a bill before the National Assembly, that would have created a Maritime Security Agency (MASECA) to carry out the same functions now being outsourced to a private firm under a suspicious concessioning plan.

”Let us say here that while there is nothing wrong in the use of concessions to provide and maintain infrastructure, it is totally unacceptable – even unprecedented especially in a fragile federation as ours – for any government to hand over the security of its entire maritime domain to a private firm. It is unconscionable that a decision that will have far-reaching implications for trade, security, ports and shipping will be taken so lightly, without a rigorous national debate.

”It is particular dangerous for a country like Nigeria, where 70% of all her resources – including oil – are on water. The security implications are so grave that no nation seeking to remain one, indivisible entity will try it. It takes the provision of maritime security out of government’s direct control, and encroaches on the role of the military (the navy in this case) to protect the territorial integrity of the nation.

”We are particularly worried about the web of intrigue involved, and will like to pose the following questions: What informed the withdrawal of the bill to create MASECA as a government agency that would have handled maritime security? Is it by coincidence that the memo on this ‘strategic partnership’ was pre-approved by the President? Why would a government so willingly abdicate its responsibility of ensuring the security of its maritime domain? What were the ministers thinking when they approved this dangerous memo? What is the agenda of the President in allowing this to happen?”

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The party said several recent developments have made it more urgent to call the partnership between NIMASA and Global West to question.

”In the wake of the fuel subsidy debate, parochial nationalist groups from a certain part of the country have threatened everything from taking full control of their resources to secession. They have even warned that President Goodluck Jonathan could be the last President of a united Nigeria. Against this background, it should jolt all right-thinking people that the nation’s maritime security is being taken over by a private entity. It does not help matters that that entity belongs to someone who has openly aligned with one of these parochial groups. That is why we asked what the
President’s agenda is concerning this ‘partnership’,” it said.

ACN dismissed as self-serving the argument proffered for going into the partnership, including that the government is unable to raise the 103 million US dollars needed to be invested over a 10-year
period for the provision of the requisite operational platforms; that the concession will create 1,375 direct job opportunities and 1,620 indirect jobs, and that the amount accruable to the government over the concession period will be around 124 billion naira.

More worrisome, the party said, is the fact that the concession will last for an initial period of 10 years, renewable for two terms of 5 years each (which is another 10 years).

”We are compelled to ask: If an investment of 103 million US dollars will fetch the government 124 billion naira and create so many jobs, why can’t the government raise – or even borrow if necessary – the amount to invest? Is anyone really convinced that this federal government that is awash in cash – going by the profligate 2012 budget – cannot raise 103 million US dollars for a project that bothers on national security?

”While seeking answers to these and other questions, we call on the National Assembly to immediately step into the matter, in view of its national security implication. We also call on all Nigerians to show interest in this issue, which has far-reaching implications for the country’s continued existence as one entity. We note that it is in consideration of the national security implication of maritime security that made the drafters of the MESECA bill to put the agency directly under the presidency,” ACN said.