Nigeria considers maritime security agency for delta region

Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua is seeking parliamentary approval for the creation of a maritime security agency responsible for protecting shipping, oil facilities and ports in the Niger Delta.

The president sent the legislation, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters yesterday, to the Senate last month for consideration.

Under the proposal, coastguard officials would have the authority to inspect ships, arrest suspects and carry firearms in the oil-producing delta.

They would provide “security information on oil and gas pipelines, rigs, platforms and all other established … installations.”

The new agency would be partially funded through a 1 percent levy on annual profits from companies using Nigeria’s waterways.

Militants and criminal gangs have sabotaged pipelines, hijacked vessels and bombed oil facilities in the region for years, preventing the OPEC member from producing much above two-thirds of its capacity and costing the country billions of dollars in lost revenue each year.

A military joint task force is responsible for protecting the region’s creeks and waterways, but its presence has become a bone of contention for rebel groups and activists.

Militants have repeatedly demanded the withdrawal of soldiers from local communities, but the military has refused to leave until law and order is restored in the delta.

The creation of a non-military maritime agency could allow the army to begin withdrawing while maintaining security.

The most prominent rebel commanders in the region all accepted a presidential amnesty offer before a deadline last week Sunday, raising hopes of a sustained period of peace.

A senior military official involved in the disarmament process told Reuters he feared militancy could resurface unless there were more rigorous patrols of the region’s waterways to prevent weapons being smuggled in.

For more on this and related maritime security topics, consider attending defenceWeb`s Maritime Security Africa 2009 conference October 13 to 15 at the Radisson Hotel at the Waterfront in Cape Town.
For the full programme and costs click here.

To book a seat contact Maggie Pienaar on [email protected]or +27 (0)11 807 3294.