Olumide Oyewole, a Lagos lawyer, has petitioned Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi over alleged poor handling of a marine accident involving two tanker vessels off the coast of Warri where 9 sailors died on October 19, 2015.
According to him, NIMASA’s inability to handle the accident is either caused by corrupt tendencies or due to incompetence but accused the Ag. Director General of the agency, Mr. Baba Haruna Jauro of assisting MT Elixir, another vessel involved in the accident, to escape justice.
Oyewole who is counsel to Twinstomp Energy Limited, owners of MT Tank, one of the vessels involved in the accident had in a letter dated December 18, 2015 accused NIMASA of not carrying out investigation, search and rescue of the affected crew members when the accident was fresh and hopes of finding survivors were high.
In the letter received by the ministry on December 21, 2015, Oyewole said such an accident would not have been swept under the carpet in Greece where the released MT Elixir is from.
“This Petition is brought against officials of the Nigerian Maritime & Safety Agency (NIMASA), in particular the Ag. Director General Mr. Baba Haruna Jauro and the Head, Maritime Safety, Engr. Vincent Udoye. The unprofessional manner they have handled the collision case (and the ancillary issues) involving MT ELIXIR and MT TANK of 19th October 2015 leaves so much in doubt as to their competence and ability to supervise the Agency. Our clients believe that the conduct of NIMASA officials in the manner they did must either have been as a result of corrupt tendencies or out of clear incompetence”
In separate letters to the Minister of Justice and Inspector General of Police, Oyewole prayed that the matter be investigated to avoid a recurrence of previous instances where NIMASA was alleged to have compromised its position in handling marine accidents.
“Our clients’ interaction with NIMASA and its officials since the incident occurred leaves so much in doubt as to the integrity of the Agency. As a matter of fact, our clients believe that NIMASA is compromised against the interest of ordinary Nigerians to the benefit of rich foreigners. A situation where lives were lost, and NIMASA frustrated all efforts to have a thorough investigation to be conducted into the matter by relevant government agencies despite repeated demands for it cannot be said to be fair and just. NIMASA also assisted the owners of MT ELIXIR escape all liability that could arise from a civil suit in court when till date it has refused to disclose the names and identities of the owners of the MT ELIXIR and its crew responsible for our clients benefactors’ demise to enable our clients pursue civil suits against the foreigners. NIMASA officials have at different times in an attempt to assist the owners of MT ELIXIR escape justice issued conflicting statements as to the motive of the MT ELIXIR on the said 19th October 2015”
MT Tank ran aground after it was reportedly hit by MT Elixir a bigger ship on October 19,2015 off the coast of Warri in Delta State. Only three of its 12 man crew survived. One lifeless body was found while the bodies of 8 others are missing.
Spokesperson for the agency, Hajia Lami Tumaka, responding to a media inquiry via electronic mail, in November said NIMASA had no reason further keeping the vessel having extracted a commitment from the owners of the vessel to produce any of the crew members as part of investigations.
Tumaka added that the investigation being carried out by NIMASA was in line with resolution A.849 of the International Maritime Organisation.
In an electronic mail statement she said NIMASA’s investigation is not intended to ascertain culpability but to prevent further incidents by sending its findings to the International Maritime Organisation.