Maritime law firm, Olisa Agbakoba Legal (OAL) said it has concluded arrangements to start arresting foreign ships that flout Nigeria’s Coastal and Inland Shipping Act 2003, otherwise known as Cabotage law.
OAL Senior Partner and Head of Arbitration, Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN, disclosed this in Apapa, Lagos on Thursday during the inauguration of the Cabotage Implementation Forum. The forum is made up of lawyers and members of the Nigerian Shipowners Association (NISA), Ship Owners Association of Nigeria (SOAN) and the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping.
The Cabotage law primarily reserves the commercial transportation of goods and services within Nigerian coastal and inland waters to vessels flying the Nigerian flag and owned by persons of Nigerian citizenship.
Agbakoba, while berating the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for failing to implement and enforce the provisions of the Cabotage law, said, “The maritime sector is such a huge sector that is potentially just below oil and gas. But in my 40 years of being in the industry, we have always talked about how we can take our proper place. So, really, what I am describing is even beyond Cabotage. Cabotage is just a tiny dot in the value chain. Shipowners are complaining that NNPC is giving local jobs to foreigners.”
Agbakoba, who is a former President of the Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, said there are about 25,000 foreign vessels working illegally in Nigerian waters. He also accused Chinese and Japanese fishermen and trawlers of perpetrating illegal, unreported and unregulated shipping activities in Nigeria.
“So how do we get out of this challenging economic recession if the government does not promote a policy that gives jobs to Nigerians? The maritime sector is an area where jobs can be generated. And if the government isn’t doing it or is not aware, should it not be the maritime community that should point it out?
“In the current National Plan which is called the National Development Plan 2021 to 2025, the maritime sector is not mentioned there at all. Can you imagine that? So, the government creates a plan and does not include the maritime sector. I don’t know how that plan could have been written with NIMASA sitting there, Nigerian Shippers’ Council and Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) present. But the question is what about us? Do we say enough? Why would, for instance, international oil companies take responsibility for shipping our products? Why? I don’t understand why that is the case.
“It is not just good enough to have our waters dominated by foreign vessels while we have idle Nigerians who can do the work but are pushed out because they don’t have the resources. If banks know that Cabotage is working, it will generate access to funding,” Agbakoba said.
Also speaking, the Chairman, Board of Trustees of NISA, Chief Isaac Jolapamo promised to support the initiative of arresting erring foreign vessels in Nigeria.
“If we don’t start this arrest, we are not going to get our desired results. We will give 100 percent backing, even though we don’t have money. This is not about fighting anybody but about getting it right by enforcing the law,” he said.
The President, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, Andy Isichei his counterpart in the Ship Owners Association of Nigeria, MkGeorge Onyung, also expressed support for the initiative.
The inauguration was also attended by Mrs Ify Anazonwu-Akerele, who is a Synergy Partner at OAL and former Director-General, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping.