Nigeria’s politics of maritime security

January 26, 2012
5 mins read

I SPOKE with Lai Mohammed, spokesperson of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), on Monday. My call was sequel to the alarm he raised about the decision of the Goodluck Jonathan regime to handover the nation’s maritime security to Global West Vessel Specialist Agency (GWVSL), a company allegedly owned by Government Tompolo, one of the so-called ex-militants of the Niger Delta, that spent the past few years subverting our country.

According to the story, the decision to approve a so-called strategic concession partnership between the government agency, NIMASA and GWVSL, was on the basis of a memo presented last month to the Federal Executive Council. Tompolo’s company, according to the plan, would “enforce regulatory compliance and surveillance of the entire Nigerian Maritime Domain”.

Spurious reason

The spurious reason averred by Jonathan’s regime for this agreement, was that the Nigerian government is unable to raise the $130million needed as investment over a 10-year period for the provision of the requisite operational platforms. The concession to Tompolo, according to the regime, will create 1,375 direct jobs and another 1, 620 indirect jobs, while government expects to earn N124billion, in the period.

Most worrisome, is the fact that Government Tompolo will get the concession for an initial 10year period, renewable for two five year terms. So if this highly suspicious, dubious and potentially secessionist project is allowed to pass, Tompolowill rule Nigeria’s maritime sector for the next 20 years. Lai Mohammed’s alert raised the pertinent question, that “if an investment of$103million will fetch the government N124billion and create so many jobs, why can’t government raise-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 $103million for a project that bothers on national security?”

Security implications

And to underline the security issues embedded in this dangerous plan, Lai Mohammed reminded that: “70 percent of all (Nigeria’s) 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”. The ambiguities and unpatriotic agenda behind the decision seemed to have deeply worried Mohammed.

“Let us say here that 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.

But must we be worried about Jonathan’s agenda to ‘dash’ the maritime region to one of its historical poachers and pirates, Government Tompolo?

Well, the vicious chauvinism of Niger Delta  elders and their thugs, in the wake of the nationwide strike and mass protests against the decision by President Jonathan to lift oil subsidy, seemed to have lifted the veils from the eyes of those who used to encourage Niger Delta thugs in the past.

Lai Mohammed asked if the decision was “part of the agenda being pursued in recent times” by the Niger Delta groups and their ‘parochial nationalism’, especially in the wake of the fuel subsidy debate.

“In the wake of the fuel subsidy debate, parochial nationalist groups (from the Niger Delta) threatened everything from taking full control of their resources to secession. They have even warned that President Jonathan Goodluck 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 the entity belongs to someone who openly aligned with one of these parochial groups. That is why we asked what the President’s agenda is concerning this ‘partnership’”.

Outsourcing maritime security

I am not surprised at the turn Jonathan Goodluck’s Niger Delta presidency has taken with the maritime security issue of concession. Last year, Iwrote a piece for DAILY TRUST alerting to the fact that the Jonathan regime was then planning to create a maritime agency for Nigeria, whose personnel would be made up of only ex-Niger Delta militants.

It did not feel right then; just as the plan to hand over our maritime security to Tompolo now, is very suspicious and I believe, unpatriotic.

The premise of my suspicion is not only the secessionist threats that followed in the wake of the strike against the removal of fuel subsidies. A few years ago, it was discovered that thousands of arms and ammunition were systematically stolen from the Nigerian Army in Kaduna and were sold to Niger Delta militants.

The report of an investigation into that serious breach of security, bordering on treason, stated that the arms were stolen while leading security personnel from the Niger Delta, were in command in Kaduna. Furthermore, the report added that leading Niger Delta politicians actually financed the purchase of these arms. That report is still available on the internet.

There is a subtle fear in political circles around Nigeria about the exact agenda of the Niger Delta political elite and their thugs of ex-militants. In the recent past, they were romanticised, even encouraged by the political and media elite of the Southwest, especially since they seemed to direct their opprobrium only against the Northern political establishment.

However, their very rude and uncouth outburst, in the wake of the anti-fuel subsidy strike, has shocked the Southwest elite to the danger that they subtly encouraged for years! Before Lai Mohammed’s alert, there was alsoWole Soyinka’s statement last week. Clearly, Nigerians must wake up to the real danger that we might have in power, a political tendency pursuing an agenda that might not be in the long-term interest of Nigeria.

There arerumours that certain imperialist countries have assured Niger Delta groups of support, if they can pull through a secessionist agenda, sometimes in the near future! The National Assembly must stop the plan by the Jonathan regime to outsource our maritime security to a pirate who spent years subverting our maritime economy.

Those who live by bunkering will now be supervising Nigeria’s maritime security! It’s like handing the keys to CBN vaults to armed robbers. It must NEVER be allowed! No rational nation privatises its security; especially maritime security!

Boko Haram, Jonathan and Borno

IN the wake of the tragic bombings last week in Kano, which claimed over 160 lives, President Goodluck Jonathan visited the city to commiserate with its people.

That is a sign of presidential responsibility, which we welcome. The President has also visited Jos and Madallah, but it is curious for me still, that President Goodluck Jonathan has never deemed it fit to visit Borno State, the original epicenter of the Boko Haram crisis. What exactly is chasing the President away from Borno?

Are its people not Nigerians or not equally deserving of the re-assurance that a presidential visit can represent? All they have received have been more troops deployments and killings by soldiers pursuing a scorched earth, pacification project. Could it be because an opposition party runs the government in the state?

This is a poignant question following the drama around the arrest of a Boko Haram suspect from the Borno Lodge in Abuja as well as the endangering of the Borno State governor’s life.

President Jonathan has a duty not only to visit Borno as soon as possible; I think his administration must improve co-ordination with the government of the state, and its governor, KashimShettima. That is the best way to find a lasting solution to the security problem in Borno.

To allow the serious issues become clouded by the needs of short-term partisan political maneuvering is to toy with the fate of millions of Nigerians caught in the crossfire between Boko Haram and the Nigerian state in Borno. It is unacceptable!

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