NPA-NAVY Relationship and the irony of ship building in Nigeria


During the just concluded Nigerian Maritime Expo (NIMAREX) 2014, the Nigerian Navy was the envy of all at the Expo as it displayed its ship NNS Andoni which was said to be built locally by the Service.
The participants especially the Nigerian Indigenous Ship-owners Association (NISA) was filled with pride at such a “can do spirit” of Nigerians which had been demonstrated by the Nigerian Navy.
But not up to one week after the much celebrated achievement, the Nigerian Media was awashed with the news that the Nigerian Ports authority (NPA) has donated three patrol boats to boost its surveillance of the nation’s maritime domain.
The Managing Director of the Authority, Mallam Habib Abdullahi while making the donation said that the presentation of the patrol boats to the Nigerian Navy was a demonstration of its organization’s determination to collaborate and partner with other government agencies to secure the nation’s territorial waters both offshore and onshore.
He expressed optimism that these boats consisting of one 32 metres OCEA named NNS Dorina and two 17 metres MANIA boats named NNS Torie anmd NNS Egede with the unique operational features and capacities, will augment the fleets of the Nigerian Navy in its search and rescue operation within the nation’s waterfronts.
“I am certain and confident that the Nigerian Navy would make good use of these boats for the purposes they are meant for considering the huge amount spent to procure them from the meager resources of the agency”, Mallam Abdullahi said.
Responding, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Bako Jubrin who described the event as another milestone in the collaboration and relationship between the NPA and the Navy remarked that the gesture couldn’t have been better before now considering the prevailing situation in the maritime industry.
Vice Admiral Jubrin who was represented at the presentation by the Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade thatkned NPA for the donation describing the acquisition of the boats as notable step aimed at curbing the activities of the pirates at sea.
He commended the management of NPA for its effort at improving the ports and assured that the boats would be judiciously used.
It was in the light of the above that many Nigerians especially the indigenous operators at the Nigerian Maritime sector has described the donation as a misplaced priority since the Nigerian Navy has proven to have acquired the capacity to build ship locally in the country.
While it is worthy of note that the Nigerian Naval Dockyard which has also been commercialized recently has proven its capacity to build patrol vessels between 10 and 38 Metres which was exhibited in 2012 when it built the NNS Andoni, the boats donated by NPA to the Navy is a 32 metre OCEA and two 17 metre MANTA class boats, which were built in South Africa and handed over to the Navy at the Western |Naval Command Headquarters in Lagos which could have been built at a far less amount than the 20 million dollars (over 3 billion naira) in the country by the Navy, many argued.
It further pointed to the fact that like many other government Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) may have opted for the more expensive option of getting the boats built for self-serving purposes like inflated costs of procurement and many travels for contracts (including travel allowances|).
Many have also observed that the authority has acted against the spirit and letters of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act (Cabotage Law), 2003 which seeks to increase indigenous participation in the highly foreign dominated maritime industry.
The gesture was more worrisome as one can recall that during an inspection tour of the second patrol boat being built by the Navy at its Lagos Dockyard, the Immediate Past Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Joseph Dele Ezeoba had boasted of the Service’s readiness to begin building and exporting of Military boats.NPA-NASS
The argument is that should Nigeria encourage the bold initiative and step taken by the Navy to build boats and small ships locally, a good percentage of our maritime challenge will be addressed as this will also reinforce the country’s position as the largest maritime and oil economy on the continent of Africa.
With this recent development in the Navy-NPA relationships, Ezeoba’s optimism for the Navy to achieve this feat may have been dashed as the Service grapples with the long endured challenge of inadequate funding and the Greek Gift kind of donation being made by NPA and other agencies of government.
Disappointed by the NPA’s act of generosity, critics had it that the action has portrayed NPA as devoid of patriotism and lacked national interest as it further empowers foreign economies at the country’s detriment, creating more Nigerian needed jobs for foreigners and extending the nation’s Naval perpetual dependence on foreign built platform.
In an interview she granted to the Transport and Society and Monitored by Primetime Reporters, the Director General, Nigerian Chamber of Shipping, Mrs. Ify Anazonwu-Akerele described the donation as a misplaced priority.
According to her,” if NPA does not know what to do with money in their account, they should consult maritime stakeholders for guidance and direction”.
Akerele observed that the gesture is a minus to the Nigerian Navy which has a standard boat-building dockyard in Lagos.
Also speaking, the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Alpha Vessels and Offshores Services Limited, Ugo Emeribe Joe observed that it was not the right thing to do spending money to buy boats outside the shores of this country when the Nigerian Navy has the capacity to build the same boats within.
Emeribe whose statement appeared to have favoured the action of the NPA more however stated that when it comes to security, there are lots of considerations one needed to make one of which he noted to be that the Navy just succeeded in building a boat for the first time in the country thus it needed more time and further demonstration of such feat until it perfect its art.
He also said that in questioning the action of NPA, one would need to find out the kind of boats required for security purposes and know whether the one said to have been built by the Navy has attained the kind of speed as the one donated by NPA to be able to counter piracy attacks on waters.
According to him,” I do not think that it is the right thing to spend money buying the boats outside the country when the Nigerian Navy has the capability of building the same boats within’.
“But when it comes to security, there are so many things you have to consider. One is that the Nigerian Navy just built this ship. I think we have to test run it for while to be able to beat our chest and say yes, you can use this vessel for security purposes”.
“I don’t expect it to be hundred percent suitable, by the time they will do the second and the third one, they will continue to fine tune until we get to where others are today. Another is that, you have to look at the kind of vessel that is required for security purposes, the one that the Nigerian Navy has built, has it attained that kind of speed?”, Emeribe queried.
Emeribe who is also a member of the Nigerian Indigenous Ship-owners Association (NISA) nonetheless opined that it was important to push more into the Nigerian Navy Dockyard to enable it build the second and third ships even as he congratulated the Navy for the rare demonstration of the spirit of industry that Nigeria was known for the world over.
When Primetime Reporters called on the Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy at Apapa, Lagos, to seek the views of the Flag Officer Commanding, Rear Admiral Samuel Ilesanmi Alade, who received the boats on behalf of the Chief of Naval Staff, he was said to be away on a meeting at Abuja.
However, a high-ranking Officer of the command who spoke to Primetime Reporters on the condition of anonymity disclosed that the project for the procurement and donation of the boats by the NPA had been on for a while even before the conclusion of work on the locally built ship by the Nigerian Navy.
He pointed out that even though the Nigerian Navy now has capacity to build ship locally and that work was ongoing on the second ship to be built locally by the Navy, they would continue to acquire boats abroad to augment what the Navy was doing until it has the capacity to mass produce ships in the country and within the shortest time possible.
According to the source, the Navy was aiming at building ships for export to other nations but it needed more money and expertise to make that dream a reality adding that until that was done, the Navy would not fold its arm and watch the pirates to continue to unleash mayhem on innocent Nigerians and businessmen on the Nigerian territorial waters.
When contacted, the Assistant General Manager, Public Affairs, NPA, Mr. Musa Iliya stated that while it was not for him to speak or hold briefs for the Nigerian Navy, NPA had only performed its Corporate Social Responsibility to the Nigerian Navy as a means of strengthening the symbiotic relationships that had existed between the two government agencies.
Iliya challenged Primetime Reporters to go and read the history of both agencies to enable it understand the relationship between the two government agencies as it would the medium to better appreciate what NPA had done.
“Who protects the ships that bring and take away oil in Nigeria? It is the Navy. If there is no security on the waters, of course you know there won’t be any business”.
“Go and interview the Vice Admiral who received the boats from the NPA, what you are doing is investigative journalism, ask the Navy, you said you have the capacity to build ship, why didn’t you ask NPA for collaboration to build the boats they donated to you locally instead of accepting the boats acquired from oversees. Also, ask him, if the boats we donated are of the same capacity as the one they are building. The Vice Admiral said in his statement that the donation couldn’t have come at any better time than this”, |Iliya said.
While one may not totally condemn the action of NPA in its entirety especially when it was done in good faith but it would have make more meaning and impact on the nation’s economy if the fund invested in the acquisition of the boats was retained within the economy of this country moreso when it has been said that the capacity of the ship built by the Navy was far more better than that of the ones acquired from South Africa.
While the Nigerian Navy should be given kudos for taking the bold step the Service is advised to choose to collaborate and partner with any government agency or private sector operators wishing to make donation of patrol boats to it to build the boats locally the funds that would have left the shores of this economy.
That way, the fund will be retained here, expertise developed within the Navy thus producing for export. It is only and only when this is done, can we boast of effectively utilizing the provisions of the Coastal and Inland Shipping Act (Cabotage) Law 2003 and our dream of making Nigeria a maritime giant of Africa and the world in general can be attained.


Leave A Reply