The Marine Police is ill-equipped to effectively police our waterways –Boat Operators

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Continued from last edition…

Mr. Ganiyu Sekoni Balogun is the Managing Director, Tarzan Marine Enterprises Nigeria Limited as well as the President, Association of Tourism, Boat Operators and Water Transport of Nigeria (ATBOWATN). In this interview with newsmen in Lagos, he talks about the incapacitation of the Marine Police to effectively Police the nation’s waterways, the roles of the regulating government agencies as well as the expectations of the Boat Operators from the Buhari’s administration as it affects their operation and many more. Our correspondent was there and filed in this piece. Excerpts;

Has there been any improvement in the policing of the waterways compared to the increase in users of the waterways and increase in the number of boats flooding the waters in the recent time?

Since you came around here, I doubt if you have seen any police boat passing here; you may not be able to identify them anyway except the big boat which is not even functioning. Two days ago, my boys towed a police boat when it broke down which is a normal thing to do. It is a law on the waterways that when you see a boat that breaks down, you must assist the boat and if you fail to assist, you will be sanctioned. It is an IMO (International Maritime Organization) law.
When the first robbery happened at my jetty at Badore, I made a report and the following week, another robbery happened to the dredgers; they went into their boat and took their money and diesel and another one was carried out on the towing log and we wrote to the Navy in my capacity as the President of the association. We wrote to the AIG (Assistant Inspector-General of Police), Marine, we wrote to NIWA (National Inland Waterways Authority) and we were called for a meeting by NIWA and we also met with the AIG and he summoned all the Senior Marine Officers (SMOs) and Federal Marine Officers (FMOs); they were all seated before I arrived there.
He asked what happened and I explained everything to him and he was blaming them for what happened and was asking them what they were doing when all the crimes were happening. They explained that sometimes they might be at Ikorodu and something will be happening in Victoria Island and before they get there, the thieves would have gone and I supported them that there is nothing they can do since they are not being equipped enough; their boat is slow and sometimes it doesn’t start. I told him that they need to equip the police and we are not talking of the size of boat but the effectiveness of the boat.
If you go to the United States of America, Australia and some other places, police boat is always the best boat. In fact, you need to see their vehicles because they know that prevention is better than cure. But the reverse is the case in Nigeria.
There was a day the police stopped me that my brake light did not show and I went to the back of their car and found out that they did not even have any light at all. I said it is my bulb that got burnt but your own vehicle does not even have light at all and we laughed over it. The truth is that I won’t expect the police man to buy the light with their money neither would I expect them to buy fuel with their money.
We are just criticizing the police that they are taking bribe, I am sorry I am not encouraging them to take bribe but the situation on ground warrants it.

Talking about security on water, where is the place of the registration of boats or is there no such a thing?

That is not happening. That is what I am telling you. I am a Nigerian and I want to open my mind but some people may not be happy the way I am talking while some may be happy but we need to say the reality so that things can change.
Now, if government makes any law, instead of enforcing the law, people that are supposed to enforce the law look at it as another money making avenue. If they say this road is one way and that no car should pass through the place, if I see you pass through it and I follow you, they will let you go and if I say look at the man that just passed through the place, they will say he is a General. Is general supposed to break the law? Then if I give them money, I will be allowed to go, why?

But before I will tell you that police should not collect money or take bribe, they should be well equipped, well looked after. I know that police men buy belts and shoes by themselves because there used to be a police station opposite my office here. So, the man will buy belt, shoes and uniform to go and do the job that you gave him to do, where will he get the money back from?
For instance, a police man dies today and the family is ejected from the barracks next week without anything, tell me how other police officers will not go and look for money to build houses just in case they die, their families will move to the houses.

Suppose there are provisions for policemen that the family can fall back on when they die, with the condition that if they commit any atrocity while in service, they will not be entitled to the provisions, you will see them sit up.

Whose responsibility is it to register the boats plying the waters and how do you get them to register so that they can be identified when they are used for any criminal activity.

There is what is called community policing. Let us take for instance that at the Ikorodu arm of our association, the boats within the axis go and register with the association there and in Victoria Island here, all the boats must register with the association, that means that once they register with the association here, we will recommend them to the authorities that will register their boats to be able to operate on the waterways.
There is NIMASA (Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency), there is NIWA and there is LASWA (Lagos State Waterways Authority). LASWA is state while NIMASA and NIWA are federal government agencies and they all have their functions where you have to take your boat to for them to do their registration and you must have life jacket, fire extinguisher and other necessary things for you to be registered.

But if they can go one more length to ask which association they belong to because the police cannot be everywhere so, if they belong to a zone of ATBOWATN, then we will tell them it is true, we will give them a letter that this man is from our place before they register him. Then you must have been educated that if your boat is found doing any illegal thing, you are on your own, we will not come to your rescue and all that, and then it will work.
We need to talk about leisure boats as well, leisure boats must go to government as well to register before they can ply the waterways; it must state the club it belongs to because there is Apapa boat club, Tarzan jetty and others like that so that they can ask which boat club you park your boat.
If you say you park it in your house then you must give all the details of your house, the number of the boat in case the boat is used for anything, they know where they will trace you to and if you are a member of a club, they will know the club and there will be a sticker on your boat or a number.
If you buy a used boat from America today, unless you remove the registration number when you bring it to Nigeria, you will see some big numbers on it. I think this is another way the association can help government to get to the bottom of these things.

And then if they constitute a kind of relationship between the government and the boat operators and the President and Secretary of the association should be part of decision making when they are having a meeting so that by the time he goes back, he knows what the government is planning and assist the government to get their aims.

Who is in charge of security on water; is it NIWA or NIMASA?

When I was a young boy and my father was operating boat, it was the marine police but things have changed so much that the marine police no longer have power. What I mean is that they are not equipped enough to be going to where they are supposed to be going. LASWA has a better boat than the marine police so, the marine police are incapacitated, they are stuck in their station, they are just there and when something happens, you go and meet them where they are.
There was a problem that happened to me last Thursday when my barge carrying building materials was attacked and I was called and I asked where they were and they told me and I called the marine police to intimate them about what was going on. I was fortunate that the robbers who were about eight in number carrying firearms left my boys before I got there and we left and came back and about forty minutes after we arrived, the police marine officers came and said they heard this and that and I said thank you very much for coming.
I want to tell you that if they are well equipped, before you know it, they are here. A lot of things are wrong and I just hope that Buhari will help to fix all these things.
There was a time an IG (Inspector-General of Police)was arrested in this country for embezzling billions of Naira. This is money that was meant to buy police shoes, belts, uniforms and police vehicles; the money was meant to equip the Nigerian police but was diverted into private pocket. This kind of thing will deprive other policemen from performing their duties.

The more our country is going down, the better for the outside world because they are the ones that will come and fix it for us, we will rely on them but if you start manufacturing a car today, are we going to go to America to buy cars? It now becomes a matter of choice to decide where to buy because an average Nigerian is so patriotic that even if the one made in Nigeria is not serving well, they still want to buy it.

What would you expect from the administration of Buhari in the area of water transport?

The first thing I expect from him is to come together with the state and local government in the area of water transportation. You know NIWA is in charge of the federal then you have the state government. The state government and NIWA have to work together because Nigeria belongs to all of us. That is the way they should look at it, they should not look at party affiliation.

There is no way you can say the son is the father, the state must respect the federal so that they can work together even the boat operators must respect them but if there is any law that is not good that they are bringing, that is the duty of the association to go and meet them that what they are doing may not work or have negative impact on the society or people.

If you could make them see the positive side they may change the idea so, that is the first thing I want the government to do. They should be united irrespective of their party differences. They should not deploy a doctor to carry out the work of an engineer because if that happens, we are going nowhere. But if you put a carpenter to do a carpenter’s job and a bricklayer to do his job, at the end of the day, all of them are going to build a house.
All of them need one another to achieve the desired result but if they refuse to work together, the house cannot be built. They should carry the boat operators along and they will be able to advise the government on what to put on ground at a particular place at the normal cost in order to achieve its purpose because the boat operators know the terrain better than anyone else. The government knows the theory while we know the theory and the practical. The right person should be placed at the right position irrespective of tribe or party line.

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