Indonesia began sinking dozens of impounded foreign boats on Saturday to deter illegal fishing in its waters, a week after a naval vessel clashed with a Vietnamese coastguard near the South China Sea.
Up to 51 foreign boats — including from Vietnam, Malaysia and China — will be scuttled at several different locations over the next two weeks, officials said.
Over a dozen were scuttled Saturday near Pontianak, in West Kalimantan province.
Fisheries minister Susi Pudjiastuti said the action was necessary to warn neighbouring countries that Indonesia was serious about fighting illegal fishing.
“There’s no other way,” she said. “This is actually the most beautiful solution for our nation, but yes, it’s scary for other countries.”
She said Indonesia suffered great economic loss from lax regulations that gave leeway for foreign boats to fish in Indonesian waters.
Since president Joko Widodo took office in 2014, hundreds of captured foreign fishing vessels have been sunk — more than half from Vietnam.
The practice was suspended for several months, but has resumed since last week when a Vietnamese coastguard boat rammed an Indonesian navy ship attempting to seize an illegal trawler.
A dozen fishermen were detained and remain in Indonesian custody.
“If we don’t act firm, they will be even more daring. I believe these collisions will get worse one day, this will escalate,” Pudjiastuti said.
Jakarta claims the area in the southernmost reaches of the South China Sea as its exclusive economic zone and two years ago changed its name to the North Natuna Sea in a bid to show sovereignty.
More recently, it inaugurated a new military base in the chain of several hundred small islands to beef up defences. The moves prompted criticism from Beijing, whose claims in the sea overlap Indonesia’s around the remote Natuna Islands.
African leaders have adopted and signed a draft Charter on Maritime Safety, Security and Development.
The agreement is aimed at establishing a roadmap on maritime security in Africa and causing development and economic growth through Africa’s oceans and seas.
At a summit in Lome, the capital of Togo, the African leaders signed the charter which is the culmination of previous summits, to provide peace, security and stability on Africa’s blue economy.
Over 90 per cent of Africa’s trade is maritime-based.
Prior to the signing of the charter, series of discussions were held by international maritime specialists and experts who met for five days.
They examined maritime piracy, trafficking, illegal fishing, development of the blue economy and protection of marine ecosystem.
These discussions culminated in a charter the Chairperson of African Union (AU), Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and President Idriss Deby of Chad referred to as an uncommon feat.
Channels Television’s correspondent, Omelogo Nnadi, says nearly 3,000 delegates from 54 African countries and and outside the continent were in Lome for the African Union Extraordinary Summit on maritime security and development.
The summit had focused on mapping out an African strategy for the protection of the continent’s seas.
A Very Major Step
For the development of the continent’s blue economy to happen, Africa needs to run like a cheetah, UN Economic Commission Executive Secretary, Dr Carlos Lopes, says.
“What we need is a much deeper understanding of the transformation that is required by the continent and that transformation can be represented by the fastest moving animal on earth which happens to be in Africa – the cheetah,” he pointed out.
He said Africa must prepare for the worst while expecting the best.
The Chairperson of the AU Commission had listed major challenges facing the continent’s maritime development.
She says Africa needs to have its own products being transported out of the continent with its own vessels.
After the signing of the Charter on Maritime Safety, Security and Development, the President of Chad, Mr Deby and the Vice President of Nigeria, Professor Yemi Osinbajo, said the agreement was a big achievement for Africa’s development.
“One of the critical things here is that we have been able to get everyone to agree, which by itself, is a very major step. It, of course, enjoins every African country to provide certain services and armed services in their own locality,” Professor Osinbajo stressed.
Before now, vast potentials of Africa’s blue economy have been infiltrated by criminals, pirates and smugglers, but the leaders have made a strong commitment to the monitoring and coordinating of activities in the continent’s waters through the charter.
Part of what the leaders plan to achieve with the new charter are job creation and revenue increase that could run into billions of dollars.
The Nigerian Navy should be better equipped to curb insecurity on the nation’s waterways especially in the fight against pipeline vandalism, the House of Representatives has said.
Addressing reporters on Friday in Rivers State, the Chairman of the House of Representatives Committee on Navy, Abdulsamad Dasuki, said that the activities of militants in the Niger Delta had almost crippled the nation’s main source of revenue.
He says the navy must be properly positioned to salvage the maritime environment.
“The House of Representatives is already considering a Maritime Trust Fund bill,” he stated.
The Committee visited the Nigerian Navy Shipyard Pathfinder in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State.
The visit is coming at a time military operations in the Niger Delta region had been heightened due to attacks on oil installations in the region, a development that has affected the revenue of the oil-rich nation with its economy in recession.
A group that calls itself the Niger Delta Avenger has claimed responsibility for most of the attacks that have dropped the nation’s crude oil output with nearly a million barrels per day, according to the Minister of Information and Culture, Mr Lai Mohammed.
It has last month agreed to a ceasefire and said it was ready for negotiations with the Federal Government.
Aside from hostility in the Niger Delta region, the Navy is also battling to end illegal fishing in Nigeria’s waters.
The arrest was made by the NNS Centenary upon patrol at the high sea to check illegalities on the waters which is the mandate of the Navy.
Briefing newsmen at the NNS Victory headquarters in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, the Victory Commander, Commodore Marcus Bobai, disclosed that fishing in some waters without valid permit is an offence and punishable by law.
He added that the fishermen are aware of this law.
According to the commodore, the fishermen on board the vessel Baba 11 were not only caught fishing without renewed authorized particulars to fish, but were also transferring the catches to a wooden boat which is strongly against fishing regulations.
He maintained that the Navy would do all within its reach to sanitize the waters and make it a safe haven for users.
The fishermen and the vessel have been formally handed over to the Federal Department of Fisheries for further investigation and prosecution.
Other military operations in the region are Operation Delta Safe and Exercise Crocodile Smile.
The military outfits suffered a setback weeks ago, losing some officials when in a boat mishap.
Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture, Akinwunmi Adesina, says producing healthy food and creating wealth for Nigerians remain his top priority, irrespective of activities of those bent on importing food, as poverty is not an industry that should be allowed to grow.
The Forbes Africa Person of the Year 2013, made this declaration on Channels Television on Monday, where he was the guest of Sunrise Daily to discuss developments in Nigeria’s Agriculture sector.
He took off by defending a circular released by his ministry on October 29, 2013, which announced a restructuring of the fishing industry in Nigeria but which had been misconstrued to be a total clampdown on the importation of fish in Nigeria.
He said that he did not think Nigeria has a business importing a lot of fish, let alone spending 127billion Naira doing so. He explained that the decision was aimed at making sure that Nigeria harnessed its potentials, owing to the abundance of water in the country.
The Minister also described the discovery of a lot of fishy business in the fish importation sector, claiming that the bad practices ware killing the local industry and sending the local fishermen into extinction.
He revealed that some of the major players in the old system of fish importing have tried to fight the reform by trying to create scarcity and force the Government to rescind its decision but he would not allow it. He said, “Poverty is not an industry, we are not going to grow it”.
He, however, clarified that the ministry did not ban the import of fish but only decided to start regulating it, having been the only country that was not doing that.
He said that the main idea was to develop and grow the industry within, explaining that aquaculture is a large industry for Nigeria by its massive water which goes beyond just fishing. He added that Nigeria should be a net exporter of many things as God has blessed the country with the natural endowment in land and water.
Speaking on the trolling industry generally, he said that there was a lot of illegal fishing in the country’s territorial waters. He made reference to the recent arrest of illegal Asian fishermen by the Nigerian Navy during the week as proof of how much the country was losing to illegal activities.
Mr Adesina also alleged that Nigeria’s abandonment of the fishing industry had given chance to the conversion of fishing terminal to serve irrelevant purposes like storing petroleum products. He wondered how things could have degenerated into such situation.
The environmental issues also came to the fore as the Sunrise team emphasized the issue of the cleanliness of Nigeria’s waters. He, however, said that the situation in this area is not as bad as it seemed, owing to the several moves being made by the Federal Government through his ministry to clean up the waters, including dredging the inland waters.
He gave an assurance that all abandoned fishing terminals across the country would be revived. Revealing that President Jonathan had given him the freehand to execute the reforms found paramount to the growth of the industry, Adesina said, “The days of abandoning the fishing industry is over.”
The Minister brought focus to the sensitivity of his reforms to the grassroots. With particular emphasis on the women in fishing communities who are into the business, he spoke about the plan to get financing to build cold rooms and ensure that they provide common services to the local trollers to protect them from being dependent on importers.
“Everything Agriculture in Nigeria is private sector driven today, Government is out of it. The role of Government is simple, their role is to develop good policies, regulations and incentives”, he said.
Adesina is not taking the security of Nigerian waters for granted. Piracy to him is a major factor, smuggling is also another issue which is being perpetrated with connivance with external bodies and the Ministry, according to the Minister, has been working with the Navy and has also established partnership with Interpol to sanitize the system.
He admitted that there is no way any system in the world can have a 100% loyal adherence to reform measures but he believes that there are other ways to also support the security measure being taken, including reducing the cost of doing the business legitimately and therefore making the legal route more attractive.
He insisted that the ministry would not compromise on its decision not to tolerate the rot in the fishing sector.
Rice Tariff Policy
Despite a new rice tariff policy, Nigeria still has a large volume of imported rice being sold in its markets. Mr Adesina said that in this regard, “Some of our neighbours are not cooperating with us when it comes to the issue of fiscal policy”, as there were a lot of noncompliance at the Seme Border. However, there were still plans for a reviewed rice tariff policy.
He also gave detailed explanation of how he intends to increase Nigeria’s local wheat production, cultivating a new variety of the crop to reach a production of 1.8 million metric tons over the next 3 years, a figure that shows the capacity to end Nigeria’s current importation of 4million metric tons of wheat which costs 5billion dollars a year.
This system, he said is being adopted on other crops, including rice.
He allayed fears that Nigerian farmers were being made to grow genetically modified seeds, but that the system was to go for enhanced seeds based on conventional technology. This was in response to a question raised by a social media follower of Channels TV.
He, however, said that this was not to mean that bio-technology was not going to be adopted where deemed necessary.
There are said to be allegations that the Agriculture Minister has not paid enough attention to the small scale farmers in Nigeria.
“That is not true” he said. Explaining that there are different categories of farmers based on their size and roles in the sector, he said that what they had done was to optimise across all the different categories.
He cited the President’s approval of the distribution of high yielding cocoa seeds and other crops for small scale farmers who are already experiencing turnarounds in their businesses across the country.
He further explained the importance of large scale farmers to the sector, emphasizing how the policies he introduced have helped raise high investments in the sector, particularly with Nigerian Businessman, Aliko Dangote announcing at the World Economic Summit earlier in the year that he had put about 300million Naira into rice growing and milling in Nigeria, an investment he admitted he never imagined he would find reasonable but for the reforms in the sector.
Mr Adesina is conscious of areas where he had been most criticized, which is on his Growth Enhancement Support Scheme, which has been berated for focusing on smaller farmers. He equated the concept of his execution of the reform to the pyramid structure in which the bottom is larger.
He said that there were more people at the bottom and this justifies his decision to start from the bottom, as this was surer guarantee of making impact on the sector.