The House of Representatives on Thursday held a public hearing on the ceding of the nation’s waterways to some foreign companies.
The House of Representatives Committee on Public petitions is probing the planned $195m concession of the nation’s waterways to foreign companies.
Minister of Transport, Mr Rotimi Amaechi, and the Director-General of NIMASA, Mr Dakuku Peterside, were among those present at the hearing.
Others include the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ekwe, and some senior naval officers, as well as some representatives of civil society groups.
Amaechi, who was responding to the allegation that the Navy has a responsibility of protecting the waterways and should be carried along in the concession process, based his argument on the provisions of the Armed Forces Act.
He quoted Part One Section Four of the act as saying: “… the Navy shall, in particular, be further charged with (a) enforcing and assisting in coordinating the enforcement of all Customs Laws, including anti-bunkering, fishes, and immigration laws of Nigeria at sea; (b) enforcing and assisting in coordinating the enforcement of national and international maritime laws ascribed and acceded to by Nigeria…”
The minister also defended the concession as it relates to the NAMASA laws, saying the Navy has a responsibility to regulate and promote maritime security.
He said the claims in the said petition are untrue, maintaining that it was not the responsibility of the Navy to deal with coastal waterways.
Amaechi admitted that the Ministry does not have the power to cede the nation’s waterways, except the National Assembly and the Presidency, adding that the President’s approval was gotten before such decision was taken.
He added that although NIMASA has nothing to do with the blue water (the sea), it was keenly interested in exercising its responsibility on the brown water which he said the law establishing the agency had provided.
However, one of the members of the committee from Bayelsa State, Agbedi Fredrick, was of the opinion that the naval team appeared not to be ready for the discussion.
Fredrick then move the motion for the adjournment of the public hearing to enable all parties involved in the petition to prepare adequately for deliberations on a yet to be decided date.
His colleague from Cross River State, Mike Etaba, seconded the motion as directed by the chairman of the committee.
After series of deliberations, the sitting was adjourned till January 17.
The House of Representatives decided to probe the planned concession on December 7 after some civil society organisations petitioned the Speaker of the House, Mr Yakubu Dogara, over it.
Chairman of the Public Petitions Committee, Uzoma Nkem-Abonta, explained at the time that the petitioners questioned the merit behind giving the concession for the management and provision of security of the waterways to an Israeli security firm when the country had statutory agencies such as the Navy and NIMASA.