Controversy trails sinking of NIMASA vessel under EFCC custody in Lagos waters

Controversy has continued to trail the sinking of a gunboat under the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) named NIMASA-BARUGU in Lagos waters on Sunday evening.

This is even as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) revealed that litigation issues surrounding the sunk vessel and others, which were procured under the now-defunct Global West Vessel Specialist Limited-NIMASA security partnership, prevented the agency from taking over the assets.

According to a video that went viral on social media very late on Sunday evening, some young men were seen leaving the sinking vessel and warning that other vessels under the Global West-NIMASA security arrangement might also sink if relevant authorities refuse to do the needful.

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“We have been warning relevant authorities for the past two months about the state of the vessels owned under the Global West-NIMASA security arrangement. These vessels are out of class and might start sinking anytime from now.

“Today, NIMASA-Barugu has gone down and we don’t know which one will follow next. Two of these vessels are still in Lagos waters while others are in Warri,” the young men were seen warning in the video shortly before NIMASA-Barugu went down somewhere in Kirikiri waterways.

In a swift response from the Assistant Director, Public Relations of NIMASA, Edward Osagie, however revealed that litigation issues prevented the agency from taking over some of the vessels in the recent past.

“While this is an unfortunate development, it is important to bring to the attention of all that this vessel under reference here is one of Global West boats that were in service with the Agency years ago.

“This boat has the name NIMASA-Barugu right from the days of the contract. There are also other boats in this contractual category in Warri.

“Collectively, the boats and their management have remained a subject of litigation and under the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) for years.

“For the avoidance of doubt, it is on record that NIMASA recently made concerted efforts towards reactivating a few of the serviceable boats in this fleet but was constrained by the legal encumbrances due to the nature of the case in court. As a law-abiding entity, we approached the matter under sound legal advisory.

“Finally, it must be stated that this vessel was not in our jetty and under our management at the time of the incident. The crew on board does not report to NIMASA but to Global West management, its owners.

“NIMASA remains committed to her statutory responsibility of administering safety and regulating the industry within the ambit of every lawful framework,” Mr Edward Osagie stated in a statement made available to newsmen.

Efforts to get the reaction of the Spokesman of the EFCC, Wilson Uwujaren proved abortive as he promised to call back when our Correspondent reached out to him on the matter, but didn’t get back and wouldn’t pick up his calls as at the time of filing in this report.

Recall that the Federal Government, in 2015, terminated the Global West-NIMASA vessel surveillance security contract.