Nigerian maritime stakeholders on Thursday agreed to support the move by Dr Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) to arrest foreign vessels that trade on Nigerian waters without waivers.
They gave their consent in an inaugural hybrid meeting of the “Cabotage Implementation Forum” championed by Olisa Agbakoba Legal in Lagos.
Those on the advocacy campaign are the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Shipowners Association of Nigeria (SOAN), Nigerian Chamber of Shipping (NCS) and some maritime lawyers.
Agbakoba is resuming the arrest of foreign vessels operating in Nigeria’s coastal waters to the detriment of Nigerian vessels.
The law firm had filed a group litigation against many foreign vessels trading illegally in the Nigerian waters.
Commenting, Agbakoba noted that the objective of the campaign was to ensure that the maritime community took a proper place in the Nigerian economy.
According to him, cabotage implementation is very poor in spite of assurances and because of this, the International Oil Company (IOC) take responsibility of shipping of products and this is not meant to be.
“Maritime community is not doing enough. We do not have a policy paper.
“If we are not helping ourselves, who will and so we need to bring back the Cabotage paper.
“If banks know that cabotage is working, they will generate loan for shipowners to get vessels and because banks cannot see the footprints of indigenous maritime stakeholders, they cannot give us loan, so the need to wake up.
“The starting point is to arrest vessels that are not in compliance with our laws,” he said.
Agbakoba noted that to make this work, there was need for plaintiffs who would go the extra mile and would provide necessary information that would aid their work, to come forward.
Dr MkGeorge Onyung, President of SOAN, noted that the cabotage law was not implemented because government agencies were not obeying the law and the association had taken it up with the National Assembly.
According to Onyung, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) giving 13 foreign companies contract to trade on Nigerian waters was illegal and we had brought this to the attention of the National Assembly.
“The issue of capacity building keeps coming up and the Nigerian Content law was made to ensure capacity building and if NNPC keeps giving contract to foreigners, we will not have capacity.
“The Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF) that will help shipowners is being moved to Central Bank of Nigeria, and of what benefit will it be?
“So if we are to improve the maritime domain, we should take cognisance of the shipping industry,” he said.
A Maritime Lawyer, Mr Emmanuel Nwagbara explained that there was need to work with government, noting that actions taken by the Nigerian Navy as regards arrest should be geared toward protecting shipping companies.
“All ships trading on our waters without waivers ought to be brought to book. Beyond going to court, we need to get government, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) buy in.
“Building capacity is very clear. If we remove all these illegal traders off our waters and we do not have replacement we are calling them to come back,” he said.
Former NIMASA Director-General, Mr Temisan Omatseye noted that NIMASA’s job was to protect and promote indigenous shipping and if they were saying that they lacked capacity, then NIMASA had failed to do its job
According to Omatseye, indigenous shipowners have failed because they do not have the capacity to raise finances.
The Founding President of NISA, Dr Isaac Jolapamo, said that the association was giving its 100 percent support for the arrest of foreign vessels that trade on Nigerian waters without waivers.
“We are not fighting anybody but doing the right thing. We cannot get capacity if we don’t push for it and so we need to start now,” he said.
Other stakeholders that participated in the meeting were, Dr Emeka Akabogu, Mr Adolphus Nwachukwu who represented Mr Mike Igbokwe; Mrs Jean Chiazor-Anishere (SAN) and Mr Andy Isichei, President, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping.
Also in the meeting were, Alhaji Aminu Umar, shipowner; Mr Mina Oforiokuma, Mr Sunday Omatseye, Steering Committee member, NISA; and others.