Hadiza snubs NASS, serves OMSL second red car
BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
The Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) have said it is not bound by the intervention of the National Assembly to maintain the status quo, over the authority’s recent sack of Ocean Marine Solution Limited (OMSL) from the Lagos channel Secured Anchorage Area (SAA), describing the intervention as advisory for which NPA is not bounded.
The clarification is coming on the heels of a recent Marine Notice by the NPA, asking ship masters, ship owners, and other operators with vessels at the SAA to vacate the area, under the authority’s territorial control; which analysts say is targeted at OMLS.
Recall that the thick of the bickering between NPA and OMLS last year, the Senate has waded in and after listening to both parties submission, directed the disputants to maintain the status quo; which effectively constrained NPA from taking further action on OMLS, in addition to disrupting the latter’s operations.
While the latest Marine Notice effectively challenge the powers of the Senate to exercise its constitutional oversight function, the NPA may have resorted to self help in pursuing the implementation of her wishes in a matter that has been officially laid on the floor of NASS as trade dispute.
Managing Director of NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala-Usman had last year, at the height of the dispute raised alarm over an attack on her person allegedly by agents of OMLS at the precinct of the NASS Complex, without providing any material evidence; when she has visited NASS on invitation regarding the dispute
Those whose business it is to know say the Marine Notice is not only provocative going by the directive by NASS to maintain the status quo, but bears direct insult on the institution of the Senate.
The management of NPA had while explaining the latest marine notice it issued stated that, “A Committee of the National Assembly can only play an advisory role in this matter, NPA is not compelled to abide by their directive.”
Following the development, stakeholders have expressed concern that the port economy may be exposed to further crisis aside Covid-19, which has already reduced ports optimal performance by over 60percent.
“When you add the possible hike in maritime insecurity, especially piracy and kidnapping at sea to the challenges of Covid-19, our economy may further nose dive, because minus security provided by people like OMLS who is working in partnership with the Navy, we will crash”, said a stakeholder who does not want his identity revealed.
He continues: “Seriously I had thought Madam MD of NPA was a smart administrator, her marine notice as far as I am concerned has put a question mark on her ability to play the politics right with the ports economics. She must be up and doing in both, you cannot insult the Senate and get away lightly.”
There is no evidence that the Nigerian Navy which granted OMLS the security contract operative at the SAA has severed relationship with the firm, whilst reports indicate that after the NASS intervention, both the Navy and OMLS in partnership have continued to provided needed security at the SAA and occasionally, even beyond.
Stakeholders have also expressed surprise that rather than focus on ports operations and fix ports access roads, trucks call-up system, and resolve factors threatening ports congestion, the NPA boss is showing more interest in ports security architecture currently provided by the Navy.
The MD NPA reportedly took the matter to the ridiculous level, when she threatened to arrest vessels found at the anchorage, a matter industry observers is impossible without the Navy, she is indirectly fighting. Expectedly, her threats ended with the statement, following steady flow of vessel traffic to the secured anchorage.
If she shot herself on the foot at the time she issued the threat, concerned stakeholders feel she should have learnt lessons and refrain from engaging critical stakeholders in a fight at the same time, since she can only win one at a time.
Analysts posit that should the NPA boss persist and create enmity with those that matters most; the port economy might crumble, given the statistics of piracy as the single largest threats to cargo vessel traffic, as the single most important factor in ports operations.
The United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel Report, stated recently that piracy which is the fundamental reason for the anchorage initiative poses a great challenge for Nigeria’s port economy, with the 2019 report showing that Nigeria lost approximately $2.8 billion in 2018, due to crude oil and maritime crimes.
A maritime analyst, Emeka Ejiofor, speaking on the face off between NPA and OMLS said the dispute may cause Nigeria more if not properly handled.
He said, “The disruption of the SAA arrangement operated by OMSL might cause the shipping community in the country a huge lost as ships may be compelled to divert goods destined to Nigeria to other countries which will not do the our economy any good.
“Diversion of goods to neighbouring countries will surely have a catastrophic effect on our economy; this is why it is surprising that this is coming from those who should know better.”
He adds that the marine notice has the potency of creating confusion and panic amongst ship owners, currently enjoying some degree of confidence and security the SAA.
Interestingly, the management of OMSL has remained calm over the controversy as it has refused to join issues with anybody except for the invitation of the National Assembly it had to honour.
Moreover, in what some has described as working for national interest OMSL has continue to provide security service at the anchorage to the admiration of ship owners and operators that anchor their vessels at the designated area.
Last month, the Navy in collaboration with OMLS, are believed to have rescued a Chinese cargo ship attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Guinea. According to reports obtained from FleetMon Explorer, an international news agency, a general cargo ship ‘Huanghai Glory,’ which left the Lekki Port, east of Lagos Nigeria on Thursday March 5, 2020 was reported to have been attacked and boarded by pirates at 1820 UMT some 85 nautical miles (NM) south of Lagos Nigeria.
According to the report, the ship and its 23 crew members (all Chinese) were under the siege of the pirates for about 24 hours after the matter was reported to the Nigerian authorities. This is even as checks revealed that neither NPA nor the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), could render any rescue efforts until a patrol boat (NNS SPARROW) owned and operated by the joint team of Nigeria Navy and OMSL under the Safe Anchorage Area (SSA) of Lagos port rose to the occasion.
Interestingly, our findings shows that the Chinese ship ‘Huanghai Glory,’ rescued by the ‘NNS SPARROW’ is not under any contractual agreement with OMSL before it offered to help on the basis of promoting Nigeria’s image. A source at OMLS who confirmed the incident said, “The vessel is not our client but the Navy beckoned on us to assist considering the amount of bureaucracy it would take for them to execute.”
Pirates’ activity is increasing in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG) and is believed to be threatening offshore oil storage aside the challenge posed to cargo vessels and crews. The first quarter of 2020 saw a spike in piracy around the world, with 47 attacks compared to 38 for the same period last year, according to the International Maritime Bureau (IMB).
The Gulf of Guinea, a key production hub surrounded by eight oil exporting countries in West Africa, has emerged as a global hot spot, accounting for 21 attacks so far this year and 90% of all kidnappings at sea in 2019.
Most attacks still occur in Nigerian waters, but piracy is expected to rise in 2020 and 2021 and expand further into neighboring states, posing serious concerns for shipping and international oil companies, according to research by political risk consultancy, Verisk Maplecroft.
The number of crew kidnapped off the Gulf of Guinea climbed 50% to 121 in 2019, up from 78 in 2018, and the Gulf has now surpassed more well-known areas such as the Strait of Malacca – a waterway which separates Malaysia and Singapore from Indonesia – to become the global hotspot.
“This trend will continue into 2020 and into 2021 as regional security forces, hampered by security hot spots across the continent, and a lack of adequate equipment, continue to be unable to effectively tackle piracy,” Alexandre Raymakers, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said in a research note.
“The prospect of international assistance is equally remote as international shipping routes avoid the Gulf of Guinea. Both regional shipping and oil and gas operators should expect further disruptions to supply chains, export routes and increased costs as more ransom payments will be necessary to liberate crews.”
Around 60% of incidents in 2019 occurred in Nigerian territorial waters, specifically in the areas surrounding the Niger Delta and, to a lesser extent, the shipping hub of the Port of Lagos. Raymakers highlighted that the socio-economic factors underpinning these incidents were unlikely to change.
While pirates traditionally limited their operations to raiding oil tankers in order to sell their hold on the black market, the collapse of oil prices in 2015 forced them to alter their strategy, refocusing their efforts on abducting crews for ransom, Raymakers highlighted.
Unlike their Somali counterparts, pirates in the Delta do not have use of secured ports or beaching areas for captured ships, which limits their ability to hold a vessel or its contents for ransom and means operators in the region therefore rarely lose ships or cargo. However, they do face delays and increased costs due to the disappearance of the ship’s crews and subsequent ransom payments.
“IOCs like Shell, ExxonMobil, Total, Chevron and Eni operating out of Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Nigeria are particularly at risk of experiencing sporadic yet highly disruptive instances of piracy in their supply chains,” Raymakers said.
“While many have learned lessons from developing comprehensive security structures in order to protect their assets and personnel in Nigeria, smaller supply and service companies will be highly exposed to expanding piracy risks.”
Unless the current face between NPA and OMLS is politically motivated, the nation is expected to see a lowering of NPA’s stance, in the effort to join hands with available capacity to raise maritime security co-efficient through collaborative synergy.