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NIMASA: More troubles For Pirates

 By Nwangwu Uba

Barely  one  month  of  entering  into a working arrangement with Global Outreach and Region Support of   INTERPOL,     the ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Maritime  Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, have entered   into another partnership with  HLSI,   ostensibly to halt   maritime insecurity in Nigerian waters  and stop revenue leakages  caused  by such security challenges.

That much was confirmed by Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state  and  outgoing minister of minister of Transportation  in an interactive session  on the issues  and progress on the nation’s maritime sector , with Captains of  the industry , and  major shipping Companies  including  other  figures in the industry.

Amaechi, who enthused  with the signing of the deal  with the private security Company ,  insists that pirates and other criminal elements must be chased out from  Nigerian waters  to make safe  and attractive for more  voyaging vessels  and more and increased  foreign investment.  

Going by the Ministry of Transportation/ NIIMASA and  HLSI systems   Collaboration,    ”all vessels  plying Nigerian waters  could  easily be identified  and monitored  from one location to another  throughout their stay in Nigeria to ascertain  all activities conducted”.

The ministry/NIMASA  may have been forced to enter into the security deal  with   HLSI,   because of the circumstances surrounding the recently hijacked  MT Apecus , which  the agency in its investigation  found had been trading in the country  without any valid  permits or documentation.

It was  also observed  that the vessel  has changed  name and flag  under which she operates   on Nigerian waters   not  less than  15 recorded instances to continue with illegal trading activities in the country.  This is in addition   to five changes  in call sign  since 1993 and four  MMSI changes , which all point to  her suspected involvement in illegal trading activities in Nigerian waters. 

Maritime watchers believe that   with the  sytems deal between  the ministry of Transportation/ NIMASA and HLSI, oil thieves and pirates , operating in Nigerian waters are in trouble. A Representative of the  Company  was said to have given a detailed  presentation of the facility  to the stakeholders at the instance of the minister and Dakuku Peterside,  Director General of the agency.

  In making a presentation   on the ”establishment  of an Integrated National Security  and Waterway Protection  Infrastructure  in Nigeria- Deep Blue  Project , in which  the Company reviewed   the progress  recorded   in both the areas of procurement  of maritime  security  assets and  human capacity   involving training  courses,   he noted  that  to date, ”c41 systems operator, Intelligence operator and Basic  Infantry training courses have successfully conducted in the country.

The HLSI Representative disclosed that the training  programme was given to well trained graduates , noting that a timetable  for the delivery  of maritime security  assets  has been laid out . Given an overview of the  Deep Blue project,   he reveals that the system would be providing  a 360  degree, eagle eye view of the country maritime domain , thus equipping  NIMASA, which is the designated agency  saddled with responsibility of regulating the nation’s maritime Industry  with a comprehensive   and real time  information  on every activity conducted  by  ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters.  This is bad news  for oil thieves and pirates, as they would not have the opportunity to carry out their nefarious trade any longer.

While  the ministry of Transportation/ NIMASA   are determined  to flush out the  pirates from Nigerian waters,  the Nigerian Navy , on their are leaving no stone unturned to Nigerian waters uncomfortable for the  pirates.  Beegory Ibe- Enwo, a Rear  Admiral and Chief of  Policy and Plans , Naval Headquarters, reportedly said that the Navy   was expecting  delivery  of  four 17 -meters  fast interceptor  Boats  it had placed order  for, stressing that   the security equipment b were expected to  be delivered this 2019 to tackle insecurity in Nigerian waters.

The Rear Admiral  said the Navy have also started negotiations  with another supplier that would could   culminate in the  procurement  of a  100 meters  Landing Ship  Tank,  LST, expected to  be  delivered  by June 2020 were also going. The Western Naval Command intensified patrol of Nigerian waters was said to have resulted  in  the arrest of 52 vessels carrying out illegal activities in Nigerian waters   and no  for various alleged  piracy related  offences. fewer than 40  persons . The Naval to shot  disclosed  at a recent Seminar  on maritime  offences and procedures to Arrest and detention of Ships in Nigerian  maritime Environment  , that quite a lot   under its custody  are under litigation and Investigation.

Femi Falana, a  Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN,  may have not found the detention of the 40 Nigerians  funny, as he had  written the  National Human Rights Commission  that the Naval Authorities  gave  the false impression  that the detainees had been transferred  to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission , EFCC, for the purpose of charging them with criminal  offences  at the Federal High Court.

The legal luminary had also written President  Muhammadu Buhari, complaining that    the detainees   who are held in incommunicado  in ” dehumanising  conditions  for periods ranging from  six  to eight months.  He lamented that   some of the detainees   are incarcerated  in an underground  military detention  facility in Abuja  while others were held  inside one of the vessels  impounded  by the Navy.

There are indications that  the Naval Authority  may not  heed to the demand of the  Lagos SAN to release the detainees, insisting that there was a clue that they were pirates operating in Nigerian waters.   Ibe-Enwo, the Rear Admiral,  opined that  piracy  has wide network which involved a lot of nationals from other countries, insisting that it has  a lot of international Characterisation.

He may have alluded to NIMASA when he said  that  the appropriate  prosecuting government agencies   are” looking very closely into the matter”. Recall that the maritime regulatory agency and the Navy  have been  working round the clock  over the last three and half years to dislodge the pirates operating in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

It is not surprising why maritime watchers fear that it would be very difficult for the  40 persons in the  Navy custody to regain their freedom for now because of the insistence that they were pirates.  

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