Strong indications emerged that the decision of the United States Government to slam Nigeria a 90- day ultimatum for her seaport facilities to meet the requirements of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security (ISPS) Code or face global trade isolation was not actually designed to punish the country.
The US Embassy in Nigeria had in April this year sent a diplomatic note to the Federal Government through the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Nigeria to improve its ports security system in the country within 90 days or risk an international blockade whereby all vessels would be stopped from calling at the nation’s seaports. This follows a damning report by US Coast Guard, which exposed the poor security situation at Nigeria’s seaport facilities.
Under the blockade, the US will stop shipping services to Nigeria and also mobilise all her trading partners to do same as part of measures to compel Nigeria to comply with the enforcement of the ISPS Code.
A maritime security expert, Dr. Kevin Okonna, who spoke in an interview, noted that it was not the desire of the US Government to see Nigeria go through some trade sanctions because her seaport facilities could not comply with the ISPS Code requirements, rather the deadline was to spur her to address some nagging security issues in the country.
According to him, Nigeria holds a strategic position in the economic of the West and Central African sub-region, which the US government is aware and conscious of and would therefore want her to be update in security and other related issues.
More importantly, he disclosed that the US Government is no longer comfortable with the dwindling security situations, especially with the proliferation of small arms and the worsening cases of piracy and sea robbery.
“The US Government, in my opinion just wanted Nigeria to be more security conscious given recent trends in the country both on land and in the sea so that the situation does not get worse than this”, he further argued.
Okonna who is also a lecturer on maritime security at the International Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN), Oron insisted that imposing sanctions on Nigeria will not benefit the US Government, especially given the substantial investments by many American companies in Nigeria.
Meanwhile, fears and apprehension over possible international sanction against Nigeria by the US and other trading allies if she fails to meet the deadline fizzled out as the US Coast Guard gave the country a clean bill of health given her efforts at complying with the security code.
Leader of the US Coast Guard team, which was on the second leg of its security assessment visit of Nigeria’s seaports and other facilities after the deadline, Mr. Tivo Romero, had told the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Nigeria’s designated agency on the implementation of the code that the agency is on track in terms of getting Nigerian seaport facilities to comply.
Romero, who spoke during a meeting with members of the ISPS Code Implementation Committee in Lagos, disclosed that the team had visited six port facilities in the country, during which it observed that Nigeria has made tremendous improvements in ISPS Code compliance since the team last visit the country about four earlier. He had also commended NIMASA for its handling of the facility operators, which accounts for the level of improvements recorded in the ports facilities in the country.
He said: “I must commend NIMASA for its efforts so far. However, the United States Coast Guard will provide required technical assistance to ensure that infrastructural and legal instruments needed for effective implementation of the ISPS Code in Nigeria were put in place.
I urge you all to see this project as a voyage which we have all embarked on” The team leader assured that the US Government will assist Nigeria technically and in terms of putting the right legal framework for total compliance with the code.
Information from National Mirror was used in this report.