Abuja (WorldStage Newsonline)-- The Federal Government of Nigeria has frowned at the practice in the maritime sector which excluded the local shippers from participating in the major maritime business.
The Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar said on Monday that government was prepared to look into the issue and may consider a legislation and a new policy where necessary to compel international companies operating in the country to patronise indigenous vessel owners.
Speaking to State House correspondents at end of the opening of the Maritime sector Presidential retreat with the theme, “Harnessing the Potential of Nigeria’s Maritime Sector for Sustainable Economic Development” held at the Banquette hall of the Presidential villa, Abuja, he expressed his contestation, saying he did not support the idea where Nigerians who own vessels will be denied patronage.
This he said the government would look into and do everything possible to correct the situation including reviewing the existing Cabotage Law and where necessary formulate new polices that could help indigenous vessel owners to recoup their investments.
According to him: "there are people who are complaining that they have acquired vessels and their vessels are not patronised by the oil companies. We are going to look at this, if it is legislation, if it is a policy issue we are going to look at this.
"I, for once, don't support the idea that Nigerians when they used their hard earn money to acquire vessels should be deprived patronage by the international oil companies. It is absolutely wrong, we have to empower our people and that is the position of government."
Senator Idris also attributed the boom in business in the transport sector to the improved enabling environment put in place by the Federal Government.
He said: "If the private sector is not faring well under the present policy, the concession in the port would have been a total failure and all of them would have backed out of the agreement. The government is living up to expectation."
Also, the Director General of the Nigeria Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi blamed the bureaucracy for slowing down the Agency to achieve result in the maritime sector.
"The greatest challenge in the maritime sector is bureaucracy; it is a little bit frustrating. Getting things done is frustrating. Maritime administration should be run as maritime administration", he posited.
This notwithstanding, NIMASA boss said no fewer than 15 vessels involved in oil theft have been arrested and those involved handed over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for prosecution.
He also expressed hope that with the seeming synergy among stakeholders in the transport sector, those who have been arrested may be prosecuted soon.
"We have arrested about 15 vessels that are involved in this oil racketeering. We don't have the power to prosecute, how they are being prosecuted is beyond our mandate.
"I have presented avalanche of arrests that have been made so far, some presented to the EFCC, some to the Navy to detain and we are intensifying effort to prosecute and in 30 days, we should curb this menace.
"We are determined and right now deploying to all these areas where oil theft are occurring and we are going to give a great blow to those who are involved in the activities. But the moist important is the will power to fight it and we are going to surprise everybody that we are winning the battle."
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Maritime Services, Mr Leke Oyelese, said the Inter-Agency Maritime Agency Operations Committee put in place by government would help in addressing most of the identified problems.