The House of Representatives says it is considering the option of overriding President Muhammadu Buhari on the International Maritime Fund Bill passed by the National Assembly on the grounds of its relevance to national interest, should the President fail to assent to it.
The International Maritime Fund Bill, passed in February this year, seeks to set aside one percent of all revenue collected by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) to fund the Nigerian Navy.
Chairman of the House Committee on the Nigerian Navy, Abdulsamad Dasuki, gave the hint during a visit to the Western Naval Command (WNC) Apapa.
“We are working with the International Maritime Fund and to that effect, we have presented a bill which the president did not assent to, but we are considering overriding the president on that bill because of national interest.
The House of Representatives had in February passed a bill to amend the act establishing the Maritime Operations Coordinating Board.
The bill makes provision for the recomposition of the Board to include the Navy as a member and be entitled to an allocation of one percent of the of the fund accruing to NIMASA under its establishing Act.
The Member of the House of Representatives, representing Kebbe/Tambuwal Federal Constituency, (APC, Sokoto), had justified the move on the grounds of “dwindling budgetary allocations to the Navy, and the urgent need to properly fund the outfit in the discharge of its constitutional mandate.”
He reiterated that a properly funded navy would help in curbing the rising security challenges in the maritime sector.
Dasuki, who led a 20-man delegation to the WNC headquarters on Wednesday, as part of its oversight functions, stressed on the need for the Navy to acquire more platforms to perform its constitutional duties.
He said the committee was aware the NN was constrained by paucity of funds, adding that they were working to appropriate more funds to the service.
“This oversight function started last week at the Naval Headquarters, Abuja where we looked at the books with regards to the 2018 appropriation. We have seen most of the projects. Today (Wednesday), we are here at the Western Naval Command, Lagos, to see on ground what we saw on paper.
“I think the releases from the Ministry of Finance have been very poor. From what we have seen, the release from the ministry is not encouraging.
“Probably, we have to tell our colleagues in the house to make sure that the Armed Forces in particular get more financial support to ensure that they can carry out their responsibilities and complete most of the ongoing projects.
“It is because of your professionalism that the militants have been pushed away and you no longer hear of pipeline vandalism in the Niger Delta area,” he said.
Earlier, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), WNC Rear Admiral Obed Ngalabak said there was no doubt that the navy deserved adequate funding to carry out its functions and responsibilities.
“It is obvious we need more funding considering the standpoint of the Committee Chairman. I am happy he has promised to talk to the relevant people to get more funding for us.”
It will be recalled that stakeholders in the maritime industry had vehemently opposed the bill at its public hearing prior to the passage.
The president, African Ship Owners Association and a former Director General of NIMASA, Temisan Omatseye, had insisted that it will be against all international conventions of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) entered into by Nigeria.
Similarly, chairman, Ports Consultative Council, Otunba Kunle Folarin, pointed out that Nigeria is a critical stakeholder in the international maritime space, hence the need to exercise caution in amending any bill that may jeopardize the future of Nigeria in the global maritime industry.
In his words “NIMASA’s efforts on regional co-operation should be consolidated, rather than trying to usurp some of the functions of the Agency as it will affect the day to day operations of NIMASA in carrying out its mandates”.
On his part, the representative of the Association of Marine Engineers and Surveyors (AMES), Engr. Emmanuel Ilori, in strong terms, condemned the moves by the Nigerian Navy to interfere with the roles of NIMASA by way of seeking amendment to the bill.
“The Cabotage fund should not be raided to fund another agency of government that already has a budget from the Federal Government”, he cautioned.
He called on the Navy to seek for more budgetary funding from the right source and not from NIMASA as both agencies have their jurisdictions regarding budget and expenditure.