Aristotle (384 – 322BC) says: “For that which is common to the greatest number has the least care bestowed upon it. Everyone thinks chiefly of his own, hardly at all of the common interest; and only when he himself is concerned as an individual.” The recent move by President Goodluck Jonathan to outsource the security of the nation’s maritime domain under the guise of  ‘strategic concessioning partnership with NIMASA’ apart from being antithetical to the common interest of Nigerians, is capable of driving the fragile cohesion and integration of the nation to the precipice.

Nigeria’s maritime domain has deep significance for her citizens and international actors. Her oceans, ports, and inland waterways are more than mere sources of food and energy; they facilitate trading with the rest of the world. Nigeria’s maritime domain no doubt holds the key to her wealth and prosperity. The dangerous attempt at handing over the country’s maritime domain through the seeming dubious ‘strategic concessioning partnership’ to one man or firm, has indeed exposed the government as being insensitive to the vital ingredients that could hold the country together as one and the drawbacks that have over time stultified the realisation of a developed Nigerian economy where the citizens’ right to wellbeing and prosperity is never sacrificed on the offensive altar of greed and corruption. The government’s current initiative if allowed to sail through as spelt out in the memo EC (2012) 24, would certainly rob Nigeria and her citizens of their common wealth and create dangerous scenario and trends – apprehensions that are capable of unsettling if not destroying the platform on which the unity, strength and stability of the nation stands. Maritime security is a key component of collective security and thus forms part of a nation’s foundation for economic development.

A memorandum titled, AWARD OF CONTRACT FOR THE STRATEGIC CONCESSIONING PARTNERSHIP WITH NIMASA TO PROVIDE PLATFORM FOR TRACKING SHIPS AND CARGOES, ENFORCE REGULATORY COMPLIANCE AND SURVEILLANCE OF THE ENTIRE NIGERIAN MARITIME DOMAIN was submitted to the Federal Executive Council (FEC) by the Federal Ministry of Transport on the 5th day of January 2012. The beneficiary of the planned strategic partnership with NIMASA is a private company known as Global West Vessel Specialist Agency (GWVSL), allegedly owned by Government Tompolo, one of the ex-militants of the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria.

The USD103.4 million (about N16 billion) contract as clearly stated in the memo will last for an initial period of 10 years and renewable for two terms of 5 years each. The memorandum also hinted that both the Due Process Office and Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) have certified the contract and that the President has granted anticipatory approval for it through a letter dated January 9, 2011 with reference number PRES/99/MT/61; these no doubt took place regardless of its security implication. It was indeed highlighted in the memo that the National Security Adviser (NSA) in consideration of the national security nature of the project submitted that it indeed has security implication (Annex 1 to the memo) in a letter dated 19th May 2011. Grave as they appear to be, several shades of apprehensions have trailed the award of this contract.

As highlighted in the memo rooted to the FEC for consideration, the motive of the so-called strategic concession partnership between the government agency, NIMASA and GWVSL, was to “enforce regulatory compliance and surveillance of the entire Nigerian Maritime Domain”. It is perhaps auspicious at this juncture to put in right perspectives the strategic meanings of the thematic concepts that hinge on the security of a nation’s waterways: maritime domain and maritime security, as a potent way of coming to terms with the numerous grave concerns that have trailed the government’s intended action as expressed in the said memorandum.

Maritime Domain simply refers to all areas and things of, on, under, relating to, adjacent to, or bordering on a sea, ocean, or other navigable waterway, including all maritime related activities, infrastructure, people, cargo, and vessels and other conveyances. The Nigerian Maritime Domain include a territorial sea of 22kms, a contiguous zone of 22-44kms and an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) from 22-370kms, over which Nigeria has sovereign rights to all living and non-living resources therein. This is almost equal to one-third the total land area of Nigeria, and includes the sea area referred to, as the Gulf of Guinea (GOG). What then does maritime security entail? Maritime Security (MARSEC) is the condition in which a nation’s sovereignty, interests, resources, and citizens and their property in the maritime domain are protected and able to recover rapidly from threats including but not limited to terrorism, weapons proliferation, transnational crime, piracy, environmental destruction, and illegal seaborne immigration.

If the government of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan goes ahead to outsource the security of Nigeria’s maritime domain to Global West Vessel Specialist Agency (GWVSL) as being envisaged, Nigerians would then be made to grapple with two shocking realities: First, the nation’s sovereign rights as contemplated in the operative definition above, is being handed over to a single Nigerian citizen or company whose owner hails from the Niger Delta extraction as alleged. Second, the protection (security) of the nation’s sovereignty and its numerous national interests in the entire maritime domain are also in the hands of one man or company. What a superman or super-company that can better “enforce regulatory compliance and surveillance of the entire Nigerian Maritime Domain” than the Federal Government of Nigeria that has an avowed will and authority as celebrated in the Constitution! There is a general feeling among Nigerians that there is more to this issue than the eyes can see.
 
Nigerians cannot stop asking questions about this super-firm being contracted to manage on their behalf, their sovereign rights and interests in their country’s maritime domain. What ‘astounding qualities’ does it possess to qualify as a more effective and efficient manager of the entire country’s waterways? The findings of Daily Trust in this regard are quite revealing (http://www.dailytrust.com.ng/index.php?):
•    “The company, according to checks, is owned by one of the famous Niger Delta repented warlords, whose records include killings, kidnappings as well as destruction of oil pipe lines and installations before he was granted amnesty by late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua.
•    “... this same ex-militant’s company was awarded another plum contract for the provision and running of five boats for marine security patrol at the cost of N49.7 million monthly for services that could cost far less than that.
•    “Even though sources close to NIMASA told Daily Trust that Global West is owned by a former Niger Delta militant, information from the Corporate Affairs Commission in Abuja show that the company is registered in some other persons’ names and the ex-militant’s name did not feature among the directors of the company.
•    “Findings by Daily Trust show that the firm was registered on January 25, 2008 with a share capital of N25 million and had Romeo Itima and William Itima as the only shareholders and directors at incorporation.
•    But it expanded the ownership to six directors on April 17, 2009 by incorporating four additional names. They are Floatinci Charge, Emmanuel Wenekad Tupede-Ebi Diffa, Olugbenlia Leke Oyekole and Onbo Godswill Siempre Aye.”

It will be recalled that late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua sent a memo to the National Assembly entreating it to consider the setting up of Maritime Security Agency made up of coastal guards to be drawn from various agencies of government related to maritime functions; this no doubt was a creative idea that obviously took the security implications of maritime functions and the fragility of the Nigerian nationhood into consideration. Quite unfortunately and thinking in opposite direction, the Jonathan administration, perceived in some quarters as an extension or continuation of the Yar’ Adua administration, took Nigerians aback by going ahead to withdraw this well intended bill and replaced it with another that seeks to outsource the security of the country’s maritime domain to a private firm under the guise of strategic concession partnership between NIMASA and GWVSL in total disregard to the very grave security implications of this new move and the shaky nature of the country’s nationhood.

As clearly brought to the fore by one of the leading opposition political parties in the country, Nigerians query:
1.    “What informed the withdrawal of the bill to create MASECA as a government agency that would have handled maritime security?
2.    “Is it by coincidence that the memo on this ‘strategic partnership’ was pre-approved by the President?
3.    “Why would a government so willingly abdicate its responsibility of ensuring the security of its maritime domain?
4.    What were the ministers thinking when they approved this dangerous memo?”
5.    What is the agenda of the President in allowing this to happen?’’
6.    If an investment of 103 million US dollars will fetch the government N124bn and create so many jobs, why can’t the government raise – or even borrow if necessary – the amount to invest?”

It is generally known that officials in the nation’s government agencies have always been unnecessarily subservient to contactors, ever too eager to obey - too submissive or eager to follow the wishes or orders of these contractors. Therefore, the promise of joint patrol and enforcement with the Nigerian Navy is sheer pretence; officials in NIMASA, a government agency cannot but subserviently relate to GWVSL, the contractor, since it is appointed by the Presidency. Having read the body language of Mr President as being overly interested in the ‘strategic concessioning partnership,’ the Federal Executive Council (FEC), a body whose members are his appointees, can only swim to the direction of their boss – good or bad, leaving Nigerians helpless and Nigeria as a corporate entity drifting faster to the abyss.

To say the least, this so called strategic concessioning partnership is not only insensitive, but diametrically corruption-driven and a deliberate stultification of the unity/oneness and cohesiveness of the Nigerian nationhood. This singular action of government attests to sheer executive rascality and profuse insensitivity to the frailty of the nation’s unity.  The perceived and real implications of this un-weighed action of government have far reaching effect on the nation’s sovereignty, national security, economy, corporate existence, accountability and transparency in governance, and national interests.

Querying the rationale behind the memo that was presented to the Federal Executive Council seeking the FEC’s approval for a strategic concessioning partnership between NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist Agency “to enforce regulatory compliance and surveillance of the entire Nigerian maritime domain,” A Nigerian political party has vehemently warned that it is particularly dangerous for a country like Nigeria, where 70 per cent of all her resources – including oil – are on water. The party in its statement opposing the so called strategic concessioning partnership cautioned that “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.” In other words, the constitutional responsibility of the nation’s military to protect her territorial integrity would be cunningly usurped by an individual or firm if government’s intention is allowed to materialise. What a powerful Nigerian that would certainly become more powerful than the President! Giving the entire country’s maritime domain that plays host to about 70 percent of her oil and non-oil resources to an individual or firm to manage and oversee is equal in effect to handing over the entire sovereignty of the nation to that individual or firm.

The grave security challenges on a nation’s maritime domain are too sensitive for an individual or firm to manage. The major threats to a nation’s Maritime Domain Security include:
•    Threat or use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity or political independence of a nation;
•    Terrorist acts against shipping, offshore installations and other maritime interests, unlawful acts;
•    Piracy and armed robbery at sea;
•    Transnational organised crimes, e.g., smuggling of migrants, narcotics and arms;
•    Threats to resource security, e.g., illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing;
•    Environmental threats, e.g., major pollution incidents and illegal dumping of waste.

In specific terms, Africa’s maritime spaces (Nigeria inclusive) host a growing number of threats that challenge both the Continent and the global community:
•    Narcotic traffickers now move an estimated 50–60 tons of cocaine every year through West Africa to Europe (see Andre Maria Costa, “Africa Under Attack: Drug Trafficking Has Acquired a Whole New Dimension,” Address Delivered Before the U.N. Security Council, December 8, 2009).
•    More than 1,000 hostages were seized in 218 piracy attacks off of East Africa in 2010 - double the number of incidents in 2008 (see “Pirate Attacks Increase in 2010,” The Maritime Executive, December 30, 2010).
•    Armed robberies of local and international vessels in Nigerian waters 2011 continue to be a challenge and analysts expect increasing numbers of kidnappings at sea (see “Cash-driven piracy to rise in Nigeria’s oil delta: analysts,” Agence France-Presse, January 3, 2011).
•    Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing is estimated to cost sub-Saharan Africa about $1 billion annually (see Review of Impacts of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing on Developing Countries; London: Marine Resources Assessment Group Ltd., 2005, 16), the catch from which floods international markets, depresses prices, and discourages legal and environmentally sustainable practices around the world.
•    Attacks on the oil sector in Nigeria have cost billions of dollars in lost revenue and repairs, helped destabilize prices globally, and contributed to an environmental disaster along Nigeria’s coast caused by 546 million gallons of spilled oil (see Adam Nossiter, “Far From Gulf, A Spill Scourge 5 Decades Old,” The New York Times, June 16, 2010).
•    Storm fronts and hurricanes such as Isabel (2003), Ivan (2004), Katrina (2005), and Ike (2008) have caused extensive flooding and the sinking of hundreds of marine craft in Africa and billions of dollars in damage in the Caribbean and North America. Moreover, Africa’s $1 trillion per annum maritime economy (representing 90 percent of African commerce) is infested with illegal trafficking. This includes a multibillion dollar black market in military arms, illegally logged forest products that represent as much as 70 percent of African timber harvests (see Strengthening Forest Law Enforcement and Governance: Addressing a Systemic Constraint to Sustainable Development; Washington, DC: World Bank, 2006, 78), and counterfeit medications that account for up to 50 percent of all sales on the African continent (see “Transnational Trafficking and the Rule of Law in West Africa: A Threat Assessment,” UN Office on Drugs and Crime, 2009, 94).

In the light of the aforementioned challenges, maritime security is no child’s play. It is a sensitive and far reaching obligation to which a nation directs and appropriates enough resources for effective and efficient results. Consequently, operations in support of Maritime Domain Security will have to focus on terrorism, proliferation, narcotic trafficking, illegal migration, piracy and armed robbery, but should also include smuggling, the protection of national resources, energy security, the prevention of environmental impact and safeguarding sovereignty. These are national assignments that should not be left to the whims and caprices of NIMASA and Global West Vessel Specialist Agency (GWVSL) shallow and corruption-ridden partnership.

It is no longer news that the Niger Delta militants, some of whom are still unrepentant and are said to be unrelenting in their bid to foist more criminalities – piracy, illegal oil bunkering, oil theft, etc on the nation’s waterways in general and the region in particular have over time not only undermined the government of the day, but also sabotaged its effective functioning. However, questions are being asked about the genuineness of the militants’ repentance; have they really called it quit with their old ways? Did they surrender their very sophisticated arms and ammunitions partially or totally? Tongues still wag that the militants’ so called repentance was not only vague but a sheer smokescreen orchestrated for the embrace of the amnesty offer of late President Yar’ Adua. What this seems to be is simple: these militants are still being perceived as grave security threats to national security, especially security for the country’s maritime domain.

According to a report  (30 Apr 2010 – NTDTV), former militants who were fed up with the Nigerian Government's amnesty programme were said to be regrouping and are behind a renewed wave of oil thefts, as well as kidnappings and robberies. Given this setting, the Nigerian Army mounted a search and destroy mission to rid the Niger Delta region of illegal oil refineries used by oil thieves and militants. The report (www.thisdayonline.com/nview.php?id=166246) highlighted further that the Army raided 30 illegal refineries in less than three days of the 80 total in Bayelsa State alone while the Navy intercepted a Greek tanker loaded with 800 metric tons of stolen oil in the month of March 2010 and arrested one person on board.

With the militants manning the maritime domain from Lagos to Calabar, as allegedly envisaged, anything can happen to the nation’s waterways. The security implication of this so called strategic concessioning partnership is grave, especially in the light of the current challenges in the nation’s waterways. One is promptly tempted to ask: How could people who were once security risks to a nation’s waterways secure such waterways? For some time, fear and anxiety has become a constant companion of people living in the coastal area of Bayelsa State, following upsurge of criminal activities in the sea. Pictures of gloom have gradually taken root in the minds of victims, and the inhabitants of the riverine communities located in Brass, Nembe, Southern Ijaw and Ekeremor Local Government Areas. Those who travel on these routes have their hearts in their mouths, due to the frightening security challenges along the waterways. The menace of the pirates has added another dimension to the problems bedevilling the coastline communities, as the criminality has become a daily occurrence on the high seas, plunging many families into deep sorrows, from either the loss or maiming of their loved ones.

Lai Mohammed promptly warned that the security issues embedded in the dangerous ‘strategic concessioning partnership’ plan are so grave that no nation seeking to remain one, indivisible entity will try it. The ambiguities and unpatriotic agenda behind the decision seemed to have deeply worried him noting that the initiative as advanced by the government “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”.

In its recent assessment of Nigerian maritime security, the Denmark-based maritime security intelligence concern, Risk Intelligence examined key factors shaping maritime security and gauged the potential for piracy and insurgency in Nigeria’s maritime domain for 2012 and concluded that Nigerian piracy did not decline in 2011, but merely moved elsewhere. Hellenicshippingnews.com quoting Tanker Operator, said in total, Risk Intelligence recorded 70 Nigeria-related attacks against offshore oil and gas and maritime targets in 2011 – up from 58 recorded in 2010.  Evidence provided by ship’s crews and by the Nigerian Navy suggests that several of the receiving vessels were operating for Nigerian interests out of Lagos and the Niger Delta. These developments appear to have close links to the long-standing illegal oil bunkering business in Nigeria.

By this kind of dangerous ‘strategic concessioning partnership,’ the nation’s growth and prosperity potentials from the sea are about being sold out to an individual or firm. A lot about the nation’s economic survival is dependent on the maritime sector which serves as the transport mode for the country’s crude oil export business and accounts for over 90 per cent of goods imported into the Nigeria. The sea is the lifeblood of the Nigerian economic base – and indeed of any continent. Nations that trade on the waterway get rich – and the more they trade, the richer they get. Apart from being the provider of trade routes, the sea provides food, commodities, income from tourism and even moderates the climate. These economic activities are prone to being stultified by sheer criminality and all manner of illegal acts in the absence of effective control such as the so called ‘strategic concessioning partnership’ Nigeria is about being bundled into.

This maritime security contract as planned by the Jonathan Administration, if allowed, is capable of destroying the corporate existence of the Nigerian nation. Well meaning Nigerians have since the emergence of the unwholesome memo, expressed apprehensions that appear to suspect the move as a secessionist agenda, especially taking cognizance of the fact that the alleged beneficiary of the contract is an individual or firm whose owner hails from Mr President’s geo-political zone, a section of the country rated as the fourth largest ethnic nationality in the Nigerian project.

What is good for the goose is also good for the gander! This may not be the case in a Nigerian nation where things appear to be taking an unfavourable turn for other ethnic nationalities whose various vanguards have had clearly defined agitations presented to the Nigerian State for prompt resolution, but not considered in the way and manner the agitations of the Niger Delta militants through their vanguards such as the Movement for the Emancipation of Niger Delta (MEND) and the Niger Delta Volunteer Force (NDVF), etc are being addressed. Yes, Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF) amongst others had articulate demands of the Nigerian State; it is undoubtedly on record that no aspect of the nation's security was concessioned to any of them. Nigerians are then asking: Why is the Niger Delta militancy issue different? Is people’s perception or suspicion of the current maritime security concesioning partnership as a strategy to ease the secession of the Niger Delta region from the Nigerian State mere unfounded fears? There is the fear among many Nigerians that Jonathan is working hard to secure the entire resources of the Niger Delta region in the hands of his Ijaw tribesmen, especially in the face of the fact that some ex-Militants are presently manning oil pipelines in the region.

Handing over the security of the maritime domain of a country whose fragile unity and oneness is currently threatened by the wanton killings and criminalities being perpetrated by the Boko Haram sect to a private firm can best be described as insensitive. Following the upsurge of the menace of the sect in the country, some sections are already agitating for the convocation of a Sovereign National Conference (SNC) of the various ethnic nationalities of the Nigerian project to agree or disagree to stay together as one. Amidst the killings and criminalities foisted on the nation, the Boko Haram sect has asked non-northern Nigerians to leave the northern axis of the country. The security implications of the maritime security concessioning contract are indeed so grave that no nation seeking to remain one, indivisible entity would contemplate it let alone selling the idea to Nigerians as part and parcel of transformational governance. The move is simply a virus that could destroy the national integration and cohesion that the nation has struggled to build since the independent year of 1960.

Some sensitive aspects of the contract as captured in the memo have indeed sold the entire initiative out as one potentially replete with questionable motives, and a platform for unrestricted corruption; a contract which emergence defied the basic norms of transparency and accountability in governance. In very speedy manner and top secrecy, the Due Process Office and Bureau for Public Procurement (BPP) certified the contract, while Mr President on his part hurriedly granted anticipatory approval to the contract through a letter dated January 9, 2011 with reference number PRES/99/MT/61. Nigerians were never given the slightest opportunity for debate – to share ideas on the essence, rationale, motives, and the implications of the proposed ‘strategic concessioning partnership.’

To many Nigerians, the contract was parochially arranged, cooked-up through the back door and foisted on the nation. In an article titled “Shocking: Jonathan Officially Concedes National Maritime Domain to Niger Delta Militants” and posted on http://saharareporters.com on January 22, 2012 - 23:39, Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde like several other compatriots diagnosed the contract and put forward some sensitive queries/comments that have in no small measure underscored it as nothing but a crass shady deal:
1.    When has Nigeria become so bankrupt that an organisation like NIMASA that generates hundreds of millions of dollars annually would not be able to invest $103.4m on something as crucial as its infrastructure that is so essential to our national security?
2.    The contract does not have a total sum. All we are told is that the initial investment would be $103.4million. How would a contractor commit himself to a contract that does not have a total sum?
3.    Equally ambiguous is the benefit that will accrue to the federal government: “not less than N124billion above the existing earnings” or less than $1billion over a period of ten years! This means in the absence of any sharing formula even if the contractor would pay the federal government only a billion dollars in ten years where he (the contractor) makes, say, $10 billion, he is deemed to have performed satisfactorily. This is dubious.
4.    Who are the 1375 Nigerian professionals and 1620 non-professionals that are going to be employed by the company? No commitment to their composition is given in the memorandum whatsoever. One can clearly see a situation where the entire workforce would be made up of Niger Delta militants. There is nothing in the memorandum to ensure a national spread of the opportunities.
5.    What happens if the contractor does not perform? Nothing except the phrase ‘no cure, no pay.’
6.    One really wonders how “the BPP reviewed the procurement process and issued Certificate of ‘No Objection’, and how the Attorney General of the Federation/Minister of Justice reviewed and approved the agreement.
7.    Why would the President approve such a sensitive memo in anticipation without waiting for his Council?
8.    Why the attempt to gain the approval of the National Assembly within a day without allowing members to study it?
9.    Who are on the board of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist Nigeria Limited? Many are saying that it belongs to Tompolo, the famous leader of one of Niger Delta militant factions.
10    What future role remains for the Nigerian military in the Niger Delta?

As clearly stated in the memo seeking the approval of FEC for the award of contract for the strategic concessioning partnership, GWVSL, the beneficiary-contractor will get the concession for an initial ten-year period, renewable for two five-year terms. The implication of this is obvious; if this utterly dangerous and corruption-infested contract is allowed to sail through, the entire maritime domain of the Nigerian nation is left in the hands of GWVSL for an upward of twenty years. This is not only dubious but criminal!

The Nigerian government should go for better options for the effective management of the security of the country’s maritime domain, rather than indulge in shallow arrangement. In the spirit of late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua’s memo to the National Assembly requesting the setting up of Maritime Security Agency made up of coastal guards to be drawn from various agencies of government related to maritime functions, a maritime military strategy is certainly a more viable option to actualising national interest in the nation’s waterways. The Maritime Military Strategy being envisaged in this regard is primarily meant to be executed by the Nigerian Navy, with the Armed Forces and other government agencies like NIMASA playing supporting roles.

The Nigerian project still remains a fragile one that needs constant oiling with enduring government policies and actions that seek to strengthen the unity and peaceful co-existence of the country as a corporate entity. If the so called maritime security ‘strategic concessioning partnership’ is not reversed, Nigerians may wake up one day to find the nation’s airspace, the Army, the Navy, the Police and even her oil sector outsourced or concessioned to an individual.  Nigerians should not fold their hands and watch this shady contract sail through. Arise O compatriots and save the future of Nigeria for Nigerians! The nation’s security agencies – the ARMY, the NAVY, the AIR FORCE, the State Security Service (SSS) and the Police should rise above board and advice the government against this dangerous concessioning for its grave security implication. The elected representatives of the Nigerian people in the nation’s National Assembly must not allow this unwholesome contract to see the light of day. All should speak up. To be fore warned is to be fore armed!

By Ajayi Alowonle
Ajayi Alowonle is a Lawyer and Public Affairs Commentator.
 

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