How Deep Blue Project Strengthens NIMASA And Nigerian Navy Relationship As The Agency Moves To Develop Maritime Tourism And Fishery

  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.

Jamoh, DG, NIMASA, presents souvenir to FOC, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Hassan

 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.     

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