A bill that would effectively cut-down bureaucratic bottlenecks that trails the current practice of transferring all matters to the Ministry of Justice has passed the second reading at the green chamber.
Besides, the bill would also bring Nigeria a step closer to having a secure and safe maritime environment.
According to Rt Hon Lynda Chuba Ikpeazu, the bill when passed will redefine the functions of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA); to enhance its operational viability and provide for better ways to protect Nigerian's marine transportation interests.
She said the Bill when passed, seeks to enhance the technical expertise of the NIMASA's Board in order to improve its steering capacity, stressing that as a revenue generating Agency for the Federal Government, there are some unexploited opportunities for revenue creation which have eluded Nigeria, even as the country is recovering from the watershed of the global pandemic.
She added that the negative impacts of existing bureaucratic bottle necks have for a long time prevented maritime stakeholders from accessing a healthy maritime business environment.
"Therefore, it is in the interest of Nigeria and of key players in the sector that this Bill addresses these challenges," she added.
She noted that the objective of the bill is to improve the maritime labour output by promoting the health and safety, and quality training for seafarers; ensure the utilisation of the Agency's funds towards promoting security in the country's maritime space, through the suppression of piracy at sea; improve the composition of the Agency's Board by including more experienced professionals, for better direction of the Agency and promote a healthy marine environment devoid of pollution from hazardous materials and unsafe practices.
The Clause 17(3) of the Bill when passed will introduce a new provision that addresses monies in the Maritime Fund, as the new provision states that 5 per cent of NIMASA fund should be allocated to furthering the purpose of anti-piracy as established under the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act.
"This provision will go a long way in ensuring that the funds are mandatorily set-aside towards furthering the intents of the SPOMO Act ii. Maritime Safety & Security," she said.
"The new Part VII on Maritime Safety and Security provides clear provisions as it relates to security and safety within every sphere of our maritime domain, including the safety of ships and seafarers, security boundaries around - ports, ports facilities, offshore platforms and such like. Specifically, Clause 41 addresses the sanctity of life at sea," she stressed.
She said the Bill would also discountenances the use of substandard machinery or under qualified crew, unsafe or improper loading of vessels in such a way as to endanger the lives of persons at sea.
She added that in line with international best practices and applicable conventions, Part VIII on Marine Environment Protection expands and introduces provisions that better protect Nigeria's marine environment, while also sustaining her blue economy potential.
"For example, Clause 45 introduces provisions that particularly seek to protect our maritime domain against oil and chemical pollution incidents and invasive aquatic species and pathogens, which have in time past, had negative impact on the environment and maritime economic activities of riverside communities," she added.
She further stressed that the Bill would introduce a new Part X on Marine Casualty to ensure independent investigations into maritime incidents and accidents; and the promotion of maritime safety guidelines that are informed by research.
With regards to legal representation, the new Clause 59 conditionally gives officers of the legal department of the Agency powers to prosecute, defend and provide advice as regards matters pertaining to the Agency.