Maritime: Synergy Between NIMASA And Nigerian Navy, Yielding Fruitful Results

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By Stephen Ubanna

When Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety, Agency, NIMASA, on assumption of duties in March 10, 2020, set out as an agenda to reach out to Heads of other security and para-military organisations, as a way to promote inter-agency collaboration, in the war against Pirates, sea robbers and other criminal elements operating in Nigerian maritime domain, he knew the agency will achieve his goal.

 Barely three years on the saddle as the Director General of the NIMASA, the agency has continued to reap the benefit of the collaboration with the other security and para-military security agencies, particular, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, led Nigeria Navy.


Past Leadership of the security agency, were said to   have established a cordial working relationship with  Jamoh led NIMASA, that Vice Admiral Gambo, had inherited. This is evident going by the number of vessels and Crews that had had been arrested in the Nigerian waters, between 2020 and now that had been handed over to the maritime regulatory agency for further investigations and prosecution.

As a prelude for the Nigerian Naval personnel, patrolling the Nigerian waters, doing their job the way it ought to be done with being accused of harassing oil tankers, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, now baptized, Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited, NNPCL, with the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill,PIB, by the National Assembly that had been signed into Law by President Muhammadu Buhari,  on October 5, 2020,  was said to have issued a notice warning  its

Clients coming to lift Crude oil   and other stakeholders that the Nigerian Navy,     will arrest any ship that dare  switch off  its Automatic Identification System, AIS  when operating in Nigerian waters.The Corporation was said to have  reminded the ship masters of their obligations  under the International Maritime Organisation, IMO,  International Convention for Safety of Life at Sea, SOLAS, V/19, which had been ratified by the Nigerian government, and implemented by NIMASA, to maintain their, AIS , at all times, when underway   in to Nigerian waters or at anchor.

 The objective of the AIS, according to the IMO, is ‘’to enhance the safety of life at sea, the safety and efficiency of navigation and the protection of the marine environment.It is also  to provide information  about the ship to other ships and to coastal authorities automatically and to assist  in collision avoidance  decision-making, target tracking, search and rescue operations.

 A  NIMASA, source told The Value News, that that a message  received , via the AIS, go a long way to improve  the quality of the information  available to the officer on the watch, OOW, either at shore surveillance station or onboard ship.

It was  not surprising why fishing  vessels, oil tankers  and other categories of  vessels, operating in Nigerian waters  which have switched  off their AIS, with the  intention to evade sanctions had fallen into the hands of the Nigerian Navy and subsequently handed over to NIMASA, for further investigations and necessary action.     

Rougue Oil Vessel Arrested By The Nigerian Navy

On August 11, 2022, the Nigerian Naval  personnel on patrol in Nigerian waters  had arrested a vessel , MT .Sea Eunice, which is currently located  along the Escravos river, close to Aroton Community in Delta state.Samuel Musa, Base Officer of the Nigerian heavy ship, NNS, Delta, whose officers  led the Base  Operation had said that  in spite of the fact the ship Captain was constantly switching  off the vessel , AIS, the officers were still able to arrest it.

He noted that the ship master switching of its AIS, was a violation of the IMO, regulation that, NIMASA is implementing in Nigeria. Given the synergy between the agency and the Nigerian Navy, may have encouraged the later to consider  handing over he arrested vessel to it for further investigations and prosecution in a Federal High Court.

Note  that the Nigerian  Navy is  manning the  Deep Blue Project  16 amoured vehicles for coastal patrol, 17 Fast Interceptor Boats  and two , Special Mission Vessels, procured by the  Federal government  which had awarded a $195 million contract o  HLSI Services and Technologies  Limited, an Israeli firm for supply of the land , sea and air facilities,  domiciled in the agency.

Jamoh, had repeatedly said that that the NIMASA   will continue ‘’ to work closely with the Nigerian Navy and strengthen the existing ties to keep the nation’s maritime domain safe and secured’’ based on the number of vessel and crew, it has arrested and handed over the over the last three years.

Osagie Edward, an Assistant Directorand the agency spokesperson, had said that Joshua Oyadiran , an Engineer,  and the  District Surveyor, Central Zone, had  received the recent oil vessel arrested by the Navy   on behalf the agency. The NIMASA, District Surveyor, was said to have assured the Navy that ‘’Investigations would be carried in line with the mandate of the agency’’. 

Musa Base Officer, NNS, Delta, Handing Over Arrested Oil vessel To NIMASA

 in a Statement issued by Edward, the NIMASA Assistant Director, Public Relations, he quoted the NIMASA Chief Executive Officer, CEO, as saying that  without ‘’the synergy  between the ,  the agency and the Nigerian  Navy ,it cannot realise its mandate’’. He noted that he had ‘’ lauded the Navy for always being ‘’ proactive in its operations’’. This is not the first time that the Nigerian Navy , may have arrested an oil  vessel in Nigerian waters and handed it over to Jamoh led NIMASA.

 Recall that in July, 2018, the Nigerian Navy had arrested and detained, MT.San Padre Pio,  an oil tanker loaded  with  500 metric tons  ofAutomotive Gas Oil, popular, diesel along with its 16 Crew men in which the ship mater had switched off the AIS to avoid detection.

 . The oil vessel and the 16 Crew men arrested were handed over to the then Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, a close political ally  aly of Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and immediate past minister of Transportations for further investigations anprosecution.

Also, on September, 13, 2021, the Forward Operating Base,  FOB,  Bonny, Rivers state,  Naval personnel had  arrested MT DEIMA, an oil tanker, which was said to have been handed over  to NIMASA  by the FOB, the then  Acting  Commanding Officer,  Lt. Eyioefe Ekah.  The oil tankermaster had switched off its AIS, which had made it impossible for its nautical position to be ascertained by the Navy.

There have been several of such other cases of arrested and detained oil vessels that were said to have handed over to NIMASA, in the past.  Mohammed Bello-Koko, Managing Director, Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, had said that rogue vessels used in stealing Nigeria’s Crude oil in the Niger Delta region, usually succeed by turning off their AIS, to avoid being tracked in Nigerian waters by Naval pers0nnel on patrol. He noted that’ ’the vessels come in legally but they go out by the left hand side to commit illegal activities after switching of their AIS’’.

It is estimated that Nigeria loses over $700 million  monthly  to the oil thieves,  a situation, energy experts, had said greatly erode  the nation’s fiscal  projections and parameters. Take for instance the estimated federally distributable revenue at N1.09 trillion this 2023, that would be available, to fund the budget as stated by the Nigerian President is estimated at N9.73 trillion.

Oil revenue is projected to account for N1.92 trillion, while non-oil revenue wound account N2.43 trillion. Bello-Koko, the NPA, boss, was emphatic that ‘’persons bringing vessels to steal Nigerian crude oil, shut down their AIS, to avoid detection’’.

Perhaps, to assist the Nigeriam Navy and NIMASA, personnel, surveillance operations in Nigerian waters to track the oil thieves, who turn off their AIS, regularly, to avoid bee tracked, may have informed why the Federa government has approved the deployment of Vessels Traffic Service, VTS,  as a means to counter the crude oil thieves.

 The NPA helmsman had revealed that the Authority, are now in the process of procuring the VTS, to enable it identify, locate and monitor  all vessels in the nation’s waters and give out such information to the Navy.

As a prelude to procuring the VTS, after 10 years of failed attempts,  he had said that the  Consultant  that would take up the supply of the equipment has been identified , noting that the item  will be procured  before the expiration of the Buhari’s Administration , on May 29, 2023.

It could be ascertained whether the Consultant has  been mobilised  to initiate the process of supplying the VTS, to NPA, because of the difficulty in reaching out to Bello-Koko, the Authority , Managing Director, including phone calls. But insisder disclosed that the approval is still on paper  as no concrete step has been taken to procure it  for now. The source noted that only the likes of Jamoh, the Director Gneral of NIMASA, if given the Presidential approval to procure such equipment that would enhance its operations in Nigerian waters, will match words with action.     

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