Allen Benson Edema, the Director-General and Commandant of the Merchant Navy Corps, has expressed concerns that crude oil theft in Nigeria will persist unless the 10th National Assembly passes the Nigerian Merchant Navy Coast Guard Security and Safety Corps establishment bill.
In an interview with journalists in Abuja on Monday, Edema lamented that the proposed legislation has faced multiple rejections during discussions in both chambers since the 8th National Assembly.
To prepare for its implementation, the Nigerian Merchant Navy Coast Guard Security and Safety Corps plans to acquire 10 Merchant Ships and 45 Fishing Trawlers from the Philippines, as well as other equipment from Holland for use in Nigeria.
Edema explained that the bill, initially introduced in the 8th Senate by the former Deputy President of the Senate, Ovie Omo-Agege, seeks the creation of the Coast Guard Corps. The Director-General of the corps would also serve as the Commandant and Chief Executive Officer, appointed by the President and subject to confirmation by the Senate.
The board of the corps would comprise representatives from various federal ministries, including Transportation, Environment, Finance, Health, and Defence, along with stakeholders such as the Nautical College of Nigeria, Nigeria Ports Authority, Nigeria Inland Waterways Authority, and oil and gas companies operating in Nigeria.
As per the proposed legislation, operatives of the NMN Coast Guard Corps would be responsible for monitoring and protecting Nigerian territorial waters from pollution during shipbuilding and the construction of maritime facilities. They would also safeguard against dumping, pollution from toxic waste, chemicals, or any other hazards to human and marine life.
The corps would monitor and control government and commercial transport boats, marine facilities, petroleum products loading and offloading activities, and ensure the security of merchant vessels, oil rigs, platforms, depots, jetties, and other maritime and transportation facilities. Additionally, they would have the authority to make arrests in Nigerian territorial waters for suspected offenses and assist the Nigerian Customs Service in inspecting vessels for illegal contraband goods.
Edema revealed that the 9th Senate had read the bill for the second time on June 30, 2021, and referred it to relevant committees for further legislative action. The administration of President Muhammadu Buhari had also emphasized the need for expedited work on the bill in response to the activities of crude oil thieves in the country.
In light of these developments, Edema called on the 10th National Assembly to prioritize the passage of the Merchant Navy Bill to effectively address the issue of oil theft in Nigeria.