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ACN raises alarm over plan to hand Nigeria’s maritime security to private firm

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The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has raised an alarm over the plan
by the federal government to
hand over the nation’s maritime security to a private firm owned by an
ex-militant warlord, wondering whether
this is part of the agenda being pursued in recent times by a group
that has been championing parochial
nationalism in the wake of the fuel subsidy debate.

In a statement issued in Lagos on Sunday by its National Publicity
Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the
party queried the rationale behind the memo that was presented to the
Federal Executive Council this month,
seeking the council’s approval for a so-called strategic concessioning
partnership between NIMASA and
Global West Vessel Specialist Agency (GWVSL) ”to enforce regulatory
compliance and surveillance of the
entire Nigerian Maritime Domain”.

The action raises more serious concern when viewed against the
background of the government’s decision to withdraw
a bill before the National Assembly, that would have created a
Maritime Security Agency (MASECA) to carry
out the same functions now being outsourced to a private firm under a
suspicious concessioning plan.

”Let us say here that while 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.

”It is particular dangerous for a country like Nigeria, where 70% of
all her 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.

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”We are particularly worried about the web of intrigue involved, and
will like to pose the following questions: What informed
the withdrawal of the bill to create MASECA as a government agency
that would have handled maritime security?
Is it by coincidence that the memo on this ‘strategic partnership’ was
pre-approved by the President?
Why would a government so willingly abdicate its responsibility of
ensuring the security of its maritime domain? What
were the ministers thinking when they approved this dangerous memo?
What is the agenda of the President in allowing
this to happen?”

The party said several recent developments have made it more urgent to
call the partnership between NIMASA and Global
West to question.

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

ACN dismissed as self-serving the argument proffered for going into
the partnership, including that the government is unable to
raise the 103 million US dollars needed to be invested over a 10-year
period for the provision of the requisite operational platforms;
that the concession will create 1,375 direct job opportunities and
1,620 indirect jobs, and that the amount accruable to the government
over the concession period will be around 124 billion naira.

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More worrisome, the party said, is the fact that the concession will
last for an initial period of 10 years, renewable for two terms of
5 years each (which is another 10 years).

”We are compelled to ask: If an investment of 103 million US dollars
will fetch the government 124 billion naira and create so many jobs,
why can’t the government raise – or 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 103 million US dollars for a project that bothers on
national security?

”While seeking answers to these and other questions, we call on the
National Assembly to immediately step into the matter, in view of
its national security implication. We also call on all Nigerians to
show interest in this issue, which has far-reaching implications for
the
country’s continued existence as one entity. We note that it is in
consideration of the national security implication of maritime
security that made the drafters of the MESECA bill to put the agency
directly under the presidency,” ACN said.

Alhaji Lai Mohammed
National Publicity Secretary
Action Congress of Nigeria
Lagos, Jan. 22nd 2012

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