*Takes delivery of last set of deep blue equipment
Lagos — THE Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, is now set to launch offensive against pirates that have become a menace in the Gulf of Guinea, GoG, following the delivery of the last sets of equipment procured to beef up the Deep Blue Economy project.
Already, stakeholders have opined that the deployment of the equipment will go a long to secure the nation’s coastal and territorial waters along the GoG axis.
Speaking on the developments, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamof, said the agency is now set to take on the criminals terrorizing the nation’s territorial and coastal waters as the Special Mission Aircraft, SMA, was now being commissioned.
According to him, the agency expects further reduction in the rate of attacks in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) with the deployment of the SMA.
He stated: “There has been a drastic decrease in the rate of security breaches in our waters in recent times. This is a clear indication that we are getting it right with the Deep Blue Project.
“The figures we are getting from the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) are encouraging. We ultimately aim to completely eradicate security hindrances to shipping and business generally in the Nigerian maritime domain.”
“These figures are a proof that we can make our waters safe and secure, and we are determined to do so.
“Today, we are here to receive the final phase of assets under the Deep Blue Project to further boost our capacity to secure our waters up to the Gulf of Guinea.”
The Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project, is designed with three categories of platforms to tackle maritime security issues on land, sea and air.
The land assets comprise the Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection; 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol; and about 600 specially trained troops for interdiction, known as Maritime Security Unit. On air, there are two Special Mission Aircraft for surveillance of the EEZ, one of which was received Wednesday, with the second expected to arrive May 18; three Special Mission Helicopters for search and rescue; and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
The sea assets consist of two Special Mission Vessels and 17 Fast Interceptor Boats.
Besides the strategic by NIMASA, the passage of the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences, SPOMO, Bill, into a law with a view to making such a law in order to curb and deter sea piracy, armed robbery and other unlawful acts at sea.
The Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act 2019 give effect to the relevant provisions of several international conventions already ratified by Nigeria.
Similarly, the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, has commended the NIMASA for the proactive steps it has taken to secure its waters and called on other African countries to take a cue from the Nigeria.
Assistant Director, Commercial Crime Services, ICC-IMB Mr Cyrus Mody, stated Safe waters is an imperative for economic viability and sustainability.
He said: “The primary objective in fighting piracy is to secure seafarers and aid trade and so coastal states should have mechanisms to report attacks without disruption.
“There is need for robust regional response not only in the Gulf of Guinea but in other areas at sea,” he said.
Mody noted that there was a lull in incidence of attacks since mid-February, which he attributed to legal exercise and commended the Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for the development.
Speaking in similar vein, the Coordinator of the Deep Blue Project, NIMASA, Mr Anthony Ogadi, said the maritime agencies should not stop at signing MoUs, but bringing solutions to the table.
“What can the Navy, Airforce, Department of State Security (DSS) and other security agencies bring onboard to solve this menace of piracy, Deep Blue Project is ready for take-off with the C4i, 44 assets in all, but it is a complementary effort to the Navy and Airforce.
“NIMASA cannot do it alone and so the need for the army, navy to come onboard,” he said.
He said his administration had procured gunboats for the security agencies, particularly, the Nigeria Police and Nigerian Navy, to assist them to ensure security on the waterways and boost the business activities in the maritime environment.
Recall that the International Maritime Bureau, IMB recorded a drop in the number of vessels that were boarded the first quarter of this year as 33 vessels were boarded as against 37 in 2020