A Maritime lawyer Barrister Emeka Akabogu stated that the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) lacks the powers to dictate to the Nigerian Navy, how best to perform its security functions.
Barrister Akabogu said that aside from the fact that both the NPA and Nigerian Navy execute their mandates on waters, the Acts empowering them clearly show that on issues of security, the Navy should not be distracted as major stakeholder, particularly, in the area of securing the nation’s waters.
“Well, from first principle, the mandate of the Nigerian Port Authority is clearly articulated in its establishing Act, just as that of the Nigerian Navy is established in the Constitution; and in the Armed Forces Act.
“Everybody knows that the Nigerian Navy is primarily supposed to provide Security for the Safety of Nigerian territorial waters. Security is not part of the mandate of the Nigerian Ports Authority”, Akabogu stated, pointing out that where such mandate on security is being implemented, it would be remiss to attempt to distract it, under whatever guise, including from the NPA to issue directives as to how such tasks should best be performed.
“I understand that the Nigerian Port Authority has issued a directive on the strength of the fact that the so called Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) is within the NPA territorial limits for its regulatory mandates.
“And I have looked, I find it difficult to see how NPA has an Operational mandates over the entire territorial waters of Nigeria; and indeed, if it does have a mandate, let’s have a look at Section 7 of the Nigerian Port Authority Act; where it actually sets out the functions of the Authority. If you read through all the sub sections in that section, there is no where a security mandate is included.
“The limits; the approaches to the Ports has a mandate to regulate operations relating to the approaches to the Ports; and the approaches to the Ports are clearly set out in the language of the Acts.
“So from the Fairway Buoy, the port limits can only extend, probably up to, but not beyond. So, in this case, the question will be where precisely is this so called Secure Anchorage Area located?
“For me that would be a significant part of the determinant factor of whether the NPA has the mandate to regulate the activities of the vessels within this area; and even if it does, the nature of the regulation will also come into question.
“Now, I have done some basic research and I confirmed that the so called Security Anchorage Area is located offshore Lagos, outside what is due to be the limits of the Ports (Some 10m before the Fairway Buoy). So, it is outside what you would still describe as the limits of the Ports; and the mandate of the Nigerian Ports Authority is within the limits of the Ports.
“The physical geographical mandate of the Nigerian Ports Authority is within the limits of the Ports, which includes its approaches. The mandate as far as the activities go does not extend to Security.
NPA does not have in its establishing acts, any mandates, relating to security on the waterways.
“So it is a different question whether or not the Nigerian Navy is in the position to enter into contract with third parties in respect to the discharge of its mandates. That question is a question which should be determined by the mandates of the Nigerian Navy. But, it is not in the place of the NPA to give directives to the Nigerian Navy as to how to discharge his mandates.
“So our task will be to locate a convergence between the mandates of NPA, the operations of the Secure Anchorage Area and the mandates of the Nigerian Navy. That would be the task, to the extent that the Operations of the Secure Anchorage Area for instance, are within or compromising approaches to the Ports, relating to safety of navigation within that approach; then the Nigerian Ports Authority would have the mandate to interfere and to give directives because, that one is within its territorial jurisdiction and it’s administrative mandate.
“So those are the questions to be asked; to the best of my knowledge, the location of the activities of the Secure Anchorage Area is outside of what we find in the NPA Act, as the Ports limits.
“Of course, the question will also be: whose responsibility is it to provide Security in the waters? It is not NPA; and then, how is this security supposed to be provided?
“I have searched and listen to narratives which are compelling that, the Nigerian Navy should not be commercializing the provision of Security within the Nigerian waters. That is a compelling argument, to the extent that the Nigerian waters which are in fact in the domains of International laws, for instance the High Seas, it is taken to be the Common heritage of mankind.
“So by deductions, we would take it that the Nigerian waters are the common heritage of Nigeria and Nigerians. So it may be called to question, the validity of the Nigerian Navy providing commercial services. But the Nigerian Navy from my interactions and engagements has never purported to be providing commercial services. I think the Nigerian Navy has been challenged infrastructurally and asset wise in the attainments of its mandates.
“I have looked at the various budgets annually over the last couples of years and the operational budgets of the Nigerian Navy, I think it ranges at about 60billion or thereabout, yet the provision of platforms to cover the entire national territorial waters would take up that sum completely; just the provision of platforms alone, without even talking about the maintenance of those platforms!
“Bonkers which would go on the vessels could potentially take a larger chunk of that entire budget!
“Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not criticizing anybody. So, I am just raising issues. So, the Nigerian Navy has got to deal with challenges to attainments of its mandates; and it is within its remits, to identify creative means of meeting its mandates, despite its challenges!” the highly informed, handsome lawyer highlighted further.