By Stephen Ubanna
Between March 10, 2020, and now , Kitack Lim, Secretary General, International Maritime Organisation, IMO, a, United Nations UN, maritime agency, responsible for regulating global shipping activities, who has been observing Bashir Jamoh, Director General , Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA and his , and his leadership style which has intensified the fight against Piracy and other Criminal activities in Nigerian waters and the Gulf Of Guinea, GoG.
The IMO Secretary Gene may have become convinced that Jamoh is doing well in ensuring the security of ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters and the GoG, as Nigeria maintains its Leadership role in the region in the fight against piracy . In a recent Congratulatory letter , that was said to have been sent to Jamoh, the NIMASA boss, signed by Heike Deggim, Director, Maritime Safety Division , he had highlighted ‘’the agency’s contribution to the war against Piracy and other maritime crimes in Nigerian waters and the GoG.
He was said to have also cited the implementation of ‘’the suppression of Piracy and other maritime Offences, SPOMO, , Act, 2019, as well as the initiation of the multi-billion dollar integrated National Security and Waterways Protection, popular, Deep Blue Project as other reasons why Jamoh deserved Commendations.
Indeed,the NIMASA , Director General has every reason to take security of Nigerian waters and the GoG, very serious on assumption of office last March. This is because the country was alleged to be losing close to $2.3 billion annually due to the activities of Pirates and other Criminal elements operating in Nigerian waters and the GoG.
Take for instance , in July 2020 alone, there were 53 reported cases of Piracy and armed robbery that occurred around the GoG. This is 27% increase , according to maritime sources from the figure recorded the same period in 2019. But the International Maritime Bureau, IMB, in its recent report, has recorded a rise in Piract and armed robbery accidents on the first nine months of this year in the GoG alone. The Bureau hand recorded a 40% increase in the number of kidnappings in the GoG alone, compared to the same period in 2019.
Pirates armed with machine guns and killer knives were said to have abducted bigger groups of Seafarers at further distances of the West. The IMB had recorded 132 attaks between January and Septe,ber 2020., up from 119, in 2019 incidents in the same period last year. The Value News learnt that of the 85 Crew Seafarers kidnapped from their vessels and held for ramsome , 80 were taken in the GoG, in 14 attacks reported in Nigeria, Benin, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Ghana.
It is on record that in the first nine months of this year, seafarers had reported 134 cases of attack, injurt and threats, including 85 Crew members being kidnapped and being held hostage onboard their ships. It was gathered that 112 vessels were boarded and six were fired upon while there were 12 reported attacks. Two fishing Trawlers were said to have been hijacked,IN the GoG.
Security experts believe that the pirates gang in the GoG are ‘’well organised which makes it possible for them to target all types f vessel, Trawlers, Container ships, over a wide range’’. Recall that on July 17, 2020, eight suspected Pirates armed with sophisticated weapons boarded a product tanker underway around 196 nautical miles south west of oil-rich Bayelsa state, south-south Nigeria. They were said to have held all 19 Crew members on bondage, stole ship documents and valuable items. They were said to have escaped with with 13 kidnapped Crew to an uknown location. Regional Authoities were said to have alerted about the attack and the 13 Crew members were released a month later. The more disturbing was the September 8, 2020 attack by armed Pirates on a refrigerated cargo ship under around 33 nautical miles south west of Lagos, Nigeria. Two Crew membes were said to have been kidnapped.
There indications that Jamoh’s anti-Piracy efforts over the last six months had frustrated attempts by the dare- devils Criminal elements in boarding vessels and attempted boarding to steal valuable items from ships and kidnap Crew members.
The IMO Secretary General , who could not hide his feelings had said the Commendation letter sent to the NIMASA Director General was a ‘’proof of the country’s abiding determination to lead the war against maritime crimes in the GoG ’’. He noted that ‘’from the successful enactment of the Legislation in the form of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act 2019, complete with the forthcoming guidelines, to the initiation and implementation of the C4i Deep Blue Project, ’’ Nigeria has continued to demonstrate its Leadership role in the GoG with regard to maritime domain awareness and enhancement of maritime security among littoral states’’.
It is instructive to note that Jamoh, the NIMASA, boss in a virtual address to a meeting of the G7+ Group friends of the GoG Guinea, G7+GOG, recently, had stressed the country’s efforts ‘’to rid the GoG of, maritime Crime, using local initiatives anchored on the Deep Blue Project, with the Command, Control, Communication, Computers and Intelligence centre, C4i centre, SPOMO act 2019, and intensified regional Cooperation. The G7+FOGG, The Value News was informed which was formed in 2013 during the British Presidency of the Group was basically to support the maritime security architecture developed under the Yaunde Code of Conduct for the region .
The Code of Conduct was said to have been developed by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, Economic Community of Central African States and , ECASA, and GoG Commission, GoGC, with a focus on the suppression of Piracy, armed robbery against ocean-going vessels, and illicit maritime activities in the West and Central sub-regions.
The G7+FOGG countries include Germany, Italy, Japan, France, United Kingdom, UK, and the North American country of the United States, Us. Others are Belgium, Brazil, which has the observer status, Denmark, Netherland, the European Union, EU,, United Nations office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC, and the INTERPOL.
Jamoh had acknowledged the Challenge of Piracy and armed robbery in Nigerian waters and the GoG, but said there was no cause for arm. He had said‘’Our solution to addressing the problem of insecurity in the GoG are home- grown , with the member countries Cooperating among themselves’’ He stated further, ‘’ Commitment to this cause has become imperative’’ and no going back’’.
Perhaps, what may have encouraged the NIMASA , Director General, to champion the anti-Piracy war in the GOG, was his believe that ‘’the Gulf of Guinea is Nigeria and Nigeria is the Gulf of Guinea’’. That much was confirmed by Philip Kaynet, a Deputy Director and the agency Head of Corporate Communications,
Given an insider information on the role of Nigeria on the anti-piracy war in the GoG, he stated, ‘’we recognised the country’s strategic Leadership position which had informed the extent of work on the integrated system of investment in the nation’s maritime domain to curb criminality, ranging from enactment of designated Legislation to development of Human Capacity and procurement of Critical hardware and platforms.
Deggim, who had signed a Congratulatory letter that was sent to the NIMASA, boss at the instance of Lim, the IMO, Secretary General, had said that the agency ‘’remain committed to supporting the good works being done at the Gulf of Guinea by Nigeria to improve maritime governance and to enhance maritime security in terms of both current and emerging threats and challenges in the region’’.This may have informed why the UN maritime agency had said that ‘’it is imperative that the GoG states adopt strategic approach , in order to ensure effective implementation of Compliance’’.
Recall that Lim, the IMO, Secretary, had in June, barely three months in office of Jamoh, as the Director General, NIMASA, sent a message of Congratulations to him following the arrest and prosecution of some suspected Pirates in Nigerian waters. Lim, had said that ‘’ the moves has sent a strong and valuable message to the international Community about the West African country’s Commitment to Safety and Security in its waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
He may have gladdened the heart of Jamoh, when he stated in the Congratulatory message to him: I commend your Leadership of NIMASA and your Proactive response to anti-piracy matters. He was said to have also extended the same appreciation to the Nigerian Navy under the close watch of Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, a Vice Admiral, on the successful capture and arrest of the Pirates from the fishing trwler Haifeng 11, and more recently on the rescue of the Crew members of the Containership Tommi Ritscher.
He noted that ‘’those actions, together with all the other initiatives highlighted in their recent meeting , including the progress so far made on the $195 million Deep Blue Project, for supply of anti-piracy equipment by the HLS, Technological Services Limited , an Israeli Security firm has sent a strong message to the international Community about the Considerable efforts being made by the current Management of the Maritime Regulatory agency, under the ‘s Leadership to curb Piracy and armed robbery against ocean- going vessels in the Gulf of Guinea’’.
The NIMASA Director General had confirmed that over 80% of the maritime assets which includes Helicopter interceptors, Interceptor boats, Unmanned aerial vehicles, Special Mission Aircrafts, SMA, Armoured vehicles,, that would be operated by Special Intervention team, and also linked to the C4i had been delivered by the Israeli security firm. This is in addition to the supply of Special Mission Vessels, SMV, baptized DB Lagos and DB Abuja. The SMV, according NIMASA sources are equipped with intelligence gathering Capability for time detection and response to illegal activities in Nigeria waters and the GoG.
Appreciating the call by the International stakeholders for multi-stakeholders Cooperation to contain Piracy ,Kidnapping and other Criminal activities in the GoG, the NIMASA boss was said to have assured the international Community that there is no cause for alarm, as Nigeria, which had taking up the Leadership role in the GoG, ‘’is working with the IMO to develop a National Maritime Security Strategy.
As a prelude to achieving this, he disclosed that the agency had already started work in order to form a National Maritime Security Committee consisting of the office of the National Security Adviser, NSA, Navy, Nigerian Air Force ,INTERPOL, Marine Police and other relevant security agencies .According to him, ‘’ the Committee will give focus and strategic direction to the planned national maritime security effort’’.