Security: More Troubles For Pirates Operating In Nigerian Waters And the Gulf Of Guinea As NIMASA Plans to Deploy Maritime Assets

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By Stephen Ubanna,

When Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, initiated a three –  pronged  agenda: Security, Maritime development and shipping development, on assumption of duties  last March to be addressed while in office,  industry stakeholders took  him very seriously. This is because of his deep understanding of the industry.

More importantly,he has the backing of President Muhammadu Buhari and Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers sate and minister of Transportation. His optimism to achieve on the dream was said to have been further  strengthened  with the delivery of the  of the maritime assets required by the  Maritime Regulatory  agency   by  HLS Technologies  Limited, an Israeli security firm which had won the $195  million contract from the government  to do so in 2017.  

As at November 20, 2020, Jamoh, had confirmed  that over 80 % of  the maritime assets   which includes Helicopter interceptors,  interceptor boats, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Special Mission Aircrafts,  Armoured Vehicles,that would be operated by a Special Intervention  t team and also linked to the C4i had been delivered.

 This is in addition to the supply of Special Mission Vessels. SMV,  Take for instance,  the  two SMVs,  that had been delivered by the Israeli security firm, which were baptised DB  Lagos and DB Abuja,they  were said to have been equipped  with sophisticated   intelligence  gathering capability for time detection  and response   to illegal activities in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea which is a bad news  to the pirates if properly put into use.

 Insider sources informed The Value News that the C4i Centre would   also  be integrated    with the Maritime Intelligence system  and the Nigerian  Navy’s Falcon Eye for real time monitoring of the activities  within the country’s maritime space.  Note that the key components   of the Deep Blue Project, DBP, are air, maritime and Land assets, where the Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, under the close watch of Hameed Ali, a retired Army  Colonel calls the shot.

Indeed, Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, has every reason to take the issue of combating piracy activities  in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea   very  seriously. This is because the country had been  losing close  to $2.3 billion annually  due the activities of the  pirates  and other Criminalities in the country’s maritime domain.  The government’s Integrated  National  Security and  Water ways  Protection Infrastructure , popular, DBP,  may have encouraged him to pile up pressure on the Israeli security firm to keep to the  terms of the agreement   of  delivering the maritime assets as contained in the   signed  on the use of the maritime assets contract papers in 20217.

Amaechi, the minister of Transportation may have opened up on the use of the maritime assets  when  he said the government will deploy  the specialis theed assets  in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.  As a prelude to deploying  the maritime security assets  acquired under  DBP, theMinisterial   Steering Committee, led  Bahir Salihi Magashi, a retired Brigadier General and minister of Defence, who was  accompanied by  Ibok Ekwe –Ibas, a Vice Admiral and Chief of Naval Staff, Amaechi,  Jamoh, the NMASA boss  and  other  members of the Presidential Committee,on DBP,  had visited Lagos, Warri, Benin and Onne, regarded as the flash points of the piracy activities in the Niger Delta region  to inspect the assets at the various locations recently.

Ministerial Steering Committee members On Deep Blue Project

They may have visited  the four locations  at the instance of the Katsina state born Nigerian President, who was said to have invested so much in the nation’s maritime sector over the last six years to  confirm  the readiness  of the Israeli security firm  delivered maritime  assets  for deployment in  the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea ostensibly  to tackle the activities of the pirates who are harassing ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters.In July 2020 alone, there had been 53 reported cases  of piracy   and armed robbery  that  ha occure  around  the Gulf of Guinea. This is a 27% increase, according to maritime sources from the same period in 2019.

Investigations by The Magazine  shows that while   boardings and  attempted boardings  to steal valuable items from ships  and kidnap Crew members are the most common  types of incidents, almost a third of other incidents  involve hijacking or kidnapping. Security sources informed The Magazine that 50% of   all the cases of piracy  and sea robbery attacks occur  in Nigerian waters which now gives Jamoh led NIMASA  and the Nigerian Navy much job to do.

Given what the ministerial Steering Committee may  have seen on ground in all the locations visited,  the  members were optimistic that the DBP,  would deliver on the national expectation  of safety and security  in Nigerian waters  and the Gulf of Guinea.  Magashi, the minister of Defence , who is the Chairman of the Stering Committee on the multi-million dollar project,  who could not hide his feelings had  expressed ‘’satisfaction  with the level of preparedness  for the launch of the maritime assets’’ by the Jamoh led NIMASA.  He was said to have’’ assured of the Buhari  Administration’s Commitment  and  determination  to improve  the security in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’.

Jamoh: DG, NIMASA And Champion Of Anti-Piracy War In The Gulf Of Guinea

He was said to have further assured the industry stakeholders that ‘’the specification s of  the latest  intelligence and military hardwares  given to HLS Technologies   Limited, the Israeli security firm which is handling the contract for the supply of  the hardwares  would be met.  The message , he may be sending across to  the industry stakeholdesr and Nigerians  in general,   was that there  was no reason  to  worry  about the Israeli firm not  fulfilling its part of the deal.

 Although , the newly acquired maritime assets had not been deployed  for operations in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea,  the country’s Naval personnel were said to have been alive to their responsibility of protecting  the  country’s  water ways.   But the minister of Defence had alluded  to  the fact that  the Navy had not been able to do much justice  in the Gulf of Guinea axis  in its operations because it is too vas He is right. The region, alone involves many countries with  crimes  being  committed by citizens of these  countries and their Foreign Collaborators.  The region , going by the map of the Nigerian  Immigration Service, NIS,   covers 11,000 square kilometers and stretches  from Angola to Senegegal, in the West Africa Sub-region.

Described  as one of the world’s most important trade routes for both oil exports from the Niger Delta region  in Nigeria and  Consumer goods from the  Central and West  Africa Sub-regions but security experts believe that it had not been  properly guarded which had  given room for the pirates o strike with ease.

There is no gain saying the fact that the  Congestions  at the  Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island port and Port Multi-services TermiTL,, including the Kirikiri Lighter Terminal,KLT, Phases  1|&2, and the lack of options  for ships queing at the Lagos port Channel to spend days ,to enter the port environment, thus making the vessels  easy targets for pirates attacks.

  It is on record hat  that during the first half of 2020, January to June,  pirates  and sea robbers, had   operated  at least in eight countries in the region: Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Coted’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo and Gabon., targeting a variety of vessels which include oil tankers,  Container ships, passenger vessels, fishing vessels and numerous other vessels supporting  oil drilling/production.

Some three years ago, precisely in March, 2017, at the height of the piracy activities in the region,  some 33 countries  including Nigeria  were said to have come together to carry out maritime security  training in the Gulf of Guinea but that was how far they could go.  The project may  have died from birth  due to paucity of Funds, lack of   Cooperation among members   and poor  infrastructural facilities in the region to give the pirates  and sea robbers a run for their money.

  This may have informed why Magashi, the minister of Defence had said that  ‘’with the acquisition of the maritime assets by the government on behalf of NIMASA , the agency and other security agencies are now in a vantage position  ‘’to observe , detect and solve  the problem of piracy in nation’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

 He recalled that before the  involvement of the Nigerian  Navy, described as the strongest in the Gulf of Guinea,  in containing the piracy situation in Nigerian waters, particular, , it was very high. Reports from maritime circles  shows that since NIMASA, initiated a close working relationship with Ekwe-Ibas   controlled Navy, the situation had reduced  considerably. ‘’I can say we are in control’’, Magashi, the minister of Defence had said. He believes that the  planned  implementation  of the DBP, will further curtail the Piracy activities in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

Until  the maritime assets are fully deployed for operations in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, kidnappings which had become common  at the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea would continue to  make firms shipping Companies  incur extra costs of operations.  The fallout was that the shipping Companies would want  to factor in   the costs of  the  independent  security contractors, that may hired, and the extra insurance  as well as  ransome money which may be passed on to the shippers and who, in turn would pass it on to the Conumers.   Analysts had put the total cost of additional  war risk area premiums  incurred  by ships  visiting the Gulf of Guinea in 2017  alone,  at $18.5 million  , stating that  35% of  the ships transiting the area also carried additional kidnap and ransome  insurance totaling $20.7 million.

Amaechi, the minister of Transportation may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he disclosed that  the training programme  for Professionals  who would man the maritime  assets that had been delivered by the Israeli security firm  was proceeding as planned, assuring that it would be concluded soon.

Jamoh, the Director General, NIMASA, who is  championing the anti-piracy war in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, had described the  deployment of the maritime assets in Nigerian  waters to tackle the activities of the pirates as ‘’ the beginning of a new  dawn in the nation’s maritime industry’’.  Given an insider information, he disclosed  that that ‘’the agency  had come a long way  in the achievement of the  dream of halting the  evil machinations of  the sea Criminals   bent on thwarting  the country’s yearning   for maximum benefits  from its rich maritime resources’’

. Jamoh who had been in the picture of the antipiracy war of the agency over the years had said that  they are ‘’deploying both technology and advance domain awareness  techniques  to ensure security of the nation’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’.He cited the Command control,  Communication  Computers  and Intelligence, operation centre  C4I and  training programme. It is instructive to note that  that C4i Centre has been in operation  since 2019.

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