Nigeria is reportedly considering establishing a non-military maritime security agency for the protection of shipping, oil facilities and ports in the Niger Delta.

According to the proposal, coastguard officials would be authorised to inspect ships, arrest suspects and carry firearms in the oil-producing delta region.

The authorities would also provide security information on rigs, platforms, and oil and gas pipelines.

The new agency would be partially funded through a 1% levy on annual profits from companies using Nigeria’s waterways.

President Umaru Yar’Adua has sought parliamentary approval by sending legislation to the Senate last month for consideration.