By Stephen Ubanna
For the past three years the relationship between the Nigerian Maritime Administration an Safety Agency, NIMASA, under the close watch of Bashir Jamoh, OFR and the Nigerian Navy, has been moving from strength to strength. This appears to have been made possible by the multi-million North American country of the United States Dollars, Integrated National Security and Waterways Infrastructure, popular, Deep Blue Project.
Given the importance attached to securing the nation’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea from the activities of Pirates, sea robbers and other violent crimes at sea, former President Muhammadu Buhari had spent $195 million to procure 17 Interception Boats, 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol, two Special Mission Vessels, two Special Mission Aircrafts, three Special Mission Helicopters for Search and Rescue Operations and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
The US $195 million maritime security equipment had been domiciled in the Jamoh led NIMASA. The agency may have known that it cannot fully operate the equipment without the support of other security agencies that it had incorporate the Nigerian Navy, NN, and the Nigerian Air Force into the Project.
At present , the Nigerian Navy, which has Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, as the current Chief of Naval Staff and Air Marshall Hassan Abubakar led Nigerian Air Force into the multi-million project to manage and operate the security equipment.
With the inauguration of the multi- million US dollar project by the former Katsina state born Nigerian President on June 10, 2021, in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, the Navy which has the mandate to operate and maintain the vessels have been alive to their duties. The same could be said of the Nigerian Airforce which operates and maintain the Two Special Mission Aircrafts, three Special Misson Helicopters and four Unmanned aerial vehicles.
The good news was that the Deep Blue Project has brought the Maritime regulatory agency and The Navy closer. This is evident as the agency had played host to past and present, Flag Officer Commanding, FOC, Western Naval Command at various times.
Only recently, Jamoh, the NIMASA , Director General and his Management Team played host to Mustapha Hassan , a Rear Admiral, and FOC, Western Nava Command and a delegation of other senior Naval officers of the Comman in its Apapa, Lagos office, with the intention of setting up a standing Committee for the much talked about blue economy.
An elated Jamoh, who had popularised the blue economy model in Nigeria that was said to have facilitated the establishment of the Federal ministry of marine and blue economy by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and which currently has Adegboyega Oyetola, a former governor of Osun state as the pioneer minister, had said that ‘’the collaboration with the Navy played a key role in the achievements of the agency in terms of maintaining the country’s water ways and Gulf of Guinea maritime security.
Given the outstanding achievements of the maritime agency over the last three in its efforts to contain the activities of Pirates, sea robbers and other crimes in the nation’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea, may have informed why the country’s anti-piracy model has been adopted by other West and Central African countries to fully confront piracy and sea robbers in in their waterways.
The NIMASA, Chief Executive officer, CEO, who could not hide his feelings had said that the change in the narratives about security in the country’s waters from the era of over 26 Piracy incidents in the ‘80s, ‘90’s and the early ‘20’s, coupled with the negative media exposure to the present no single piracy incident in Nigerian waters or the Gulf of Guinea in the last two years , with the launching of the Deep Blue Project by the former the Nigerian President speaks volume.
The Kaduna state born technocrat had attributed the success of its anti-piracy operations to the direct product of effective collaboration of the Maritime Administration with the Nigerian Navy, under its past and present Leadership, a relationship, he has promised to sustain.
Hear him: The collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, particular, is largely responsible for the confidence of the industry stakeholders and oil companies including the Nigerian Liquefied Natural Gas Company, NLNG in the current Management of the Maritime Regulatory agency.
He had recalled this recent to the South American country of Brazil, noting that the South Americans and even Ghana, a neighbouring West African country had shown eagerness to learn how Nigeria had arrived at this MARD -Navy collaboration that had yielded success in the country’s anti-piracy war. This may have informed why he has strengthened his resolve to do more to main the security of Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea a and make it a no- go area for Pirates, sea robbers and other criminal elements.
He may have posed a question where Nigeria could have been by now if the negative media exposure between 2019 and 2020, about the prevalent piracy, sea robbery and other criminal activities in the nation’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea had continued. ‘’I am glad we sought and got collaboration with the Navy which is now yielding fruit’’, he had said.
Given the success that had been achieved by the Maritime agency over the last three years may have informed why the NIMASA helmsman, had made it clear to those that cares to listen that they are eager to sustain the policy ‘’to ensure that Nigerians enjoy the benefits accruable from the blue economy’’.
It was not surprising why he had said hat ‘’the time has come for the nation to implement its crude to blue economy Campaign which had been on the drawing board since 2021. He had said that maritime stakeholder in Nigeria are ready’’ to repay the Nigerian President for creating the new ministry of marine and blue economy.
He noted that ‘’if the country must make a head way in Tourism and fishing, as obtained in other maritime nations, in Europe, Asia and the US, tackling security problems must remain a priority’’. Jamoh, the Maritime Poster boy may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said that the agency will make a case for the designation of some marine protected areas particularly for fishing , stressing that the Nigerian Navy definitely would still play a prominent role to the new arrangement.
By setting up the Blue Economy Committee comprising of eight members, with four members each, from NIMASA and the Navy, its Constitution was said to have been announcedd to the hearing of the members to serve as catalyst a shift from crude oil to Blue economy , now that the country has a fully established ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.
As a prelude to ensuring the success of the Blue Economy model in Nigeria, Vice Admiral, Hassan, the FOC, Western Naval Command had stressed the need to sustain information sharing between NIMASA and the Navy.
The FOC, western Naval Command may have gladdened the heart of Jamoh , the NIMASA, CEO, and his Management Team for the non- kinetic support to the Command . Like Oliver twist, the FOC , Western Naval Command , was said to have asked the NIMASA Director General to extend such kinetic support to the ‘’Navy Operation Water Guard’’ to combat smuggling of Contraband goods between Nigerian and the neighbouring West African country of Benin Republic around the Badagry water channel.
Vice Admiral Hassan the FOC , Western Naval Command , who was said to have been accompanied to the NIMASA Apapa office, that was said to have resulted in setting up the eight-man Blue Economy Committee by Commodore O.a. Akinbami , Commander of the Deep Blue maritime assets had said that the maritime security equipment under its control are fully functional but requested for further deepening of information sharing between and theagency C4i centre at OLODI, Apapa and the Western Naval Command.
The FOC, Western Naval Command was said to have also asked Jamoh led NIMASA to bring to the notice of the ministry of Marine and Blue Economy, the need for Nigeria ‘’to take possession of the oil rich Tongeji, border Island between Nigeria and Benin Republic for maritime tourism.
The closest community to the Tongeji Island, according to the NIMASA boss is Badagry, which he had said is about 55 minutes cruising by water while it is just five minutes from Porto Novo, the old Capital city of Benin Republic. Note that the residents of the Tongeji border Island, use both French and English to conduct their business dealings but do their daily shopping from the city of Porto Novo.
This may have informed why the NIMASA Director General, had described the oil-rich Tongeji border Island as ‘’ a low hanging fruit for the new ministry of Marne and Blue Economy’’ , giving an assurance that ‘’the agency will relate with the supervising ministry for further actions as regards maritime tourism’’. Vintage Jamoh.