By Stephen Ubanna
Given the Heat coming from the Bashir Jamoh, led Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, with the deployment of the agency procured $195 million Maritime Assets comprising of two Special Mission Vessels, 17 Interception Boats, for sea and coastal waters operations, particular, many of the Nigerian unrepentant Pirates were said to have relocated to Ghana and other countries in the West African sub-region.
The situation is so bad in Ghana, that Albert Derrick Fiatui, Executive Director of the West African country based International Maritime Affairs, has cried out that the activities of the Pirates are now crippling economic activities within the country. He had said that the Pirates attack on the ocean going and Fishing vessels , in Ghana waters, in the first quarter of 2021 was very alarming, as the country recorded nine incidents, which have never happened before. He disclosed that the attacks was on the high side compared to the same periods in 2019 and 2020, where there were only about five recorded incidents each.
In late May 2019, some suspected Pirates were said to have boarded a Fishing vessel within the Ghana waters and allegedly kidnapped five Crew members comprising of one Korean, one Russian and three Chinese Nationals. Ghana, is one of the member nations of the Gulf of Guinea region which Constitute a central shipping Lane that experiences a high Piracy threat.
It is interesting to note that the Pirates regularly target Commercial vessels, Container ships, bulk Carriers and their Crew members. There is no gain saying the fact that the Piracy activities in the region have continued to spread with several new hotspot including Ghana and the Exclusive Economic Zone of Gabon, emerging in recent months.
This may have informed why the Ghana Maritime Authority, officials have repeatedly advised the Shipping Companies approaching Ghana waters with their cargo to always review their ship security assessment and plan under the International Ship and Port Security, ISPS, Code, particular, in Piracy prone areas to prevent attack.
Before now,the Nigerian waters, was the most prone for such Pirates attack that most of the International Ship owners dread putting their vessels in the nation’s water . But all that appear to have changed, no Thanks to the intensified effort of Jamoh, Director General, NIMASA, and his Operational Staff. The agency may have gotten it right in the last couple of months in deal with the Pirates with the backing of the Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo, led Nigerian Navy whose officers regularly Patrol the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea in the recent time.
The Niger Delta Pirates who were said to have relocated to other member countries of the Gulf of Guinea region , may have known that the NIMASA Operation officers and their Naval personnel, Collaborators, have done their homework to adequately police the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, which clearly shows that they would never longer have the opportunity to attack cargo vessels, let alone kidnap their Crew members and demand ransom in return for their release.
Maritime analysts believe that even if they could brave the odds to attack any Container ship or Bulk Carrier , it would still be very difficult for them to escape to another safe location to for force the affected shipping Company to pay ransom, as they would be fished out with ease. This is because the Maritime Regulatory agency which is working closely with Air Marshall Isiaka Oladayo Amao, led Nigerian , Air Force to man its two Special Mission aircrafts for Surveillance, three Special Mission Helicopters for Search and Rescue operations and four unmanned Aerial vehicles meant for its Deep Blue Project are battle ready to patrol the prone Pirate infested Areas in Nigerian waters if given the signal.
An Insider told The Value News that the Nigerian based Pirates who may have successfully launched an attack an ocean –going vessel in Nigerian waters in March, 2021 and two, other vessels, in the month of May , because the agency was has not fully deployed its Maritime Assets, both sea and air, for operation.
Investigations by the Magazine shows that the country never experienced any attack on ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters in the month of June. Fillers from the agency also shows that the situation is not different from the month of July as there have not been any report of an attack on any Container ship or fishing vessel in Nigerian waters or the Gulf of Guinea.
Recall last February, when the agency had first introduced the Maritime Assets for operations, the Pirates, who had earlier sent a signal to the shipping Companies and other Industry stakeholders that it is no longer going to be business as usual in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea had attacked a Turkish cargo vessel, MV,MOZART, sailing from Lagos to Cape Town, in South Africa.
The attack had resulted in the kidnap of 15 Crew members of the ship and the death of an Azerbaijani seafarer. His is may have forced both NIMASA AND THE Nigerian Naval Personnel to go back to the drawing board to decide on how to deal on how to deal with Criminal elements. This may have forced many of them who could not stand the hat to go underground since February, 2021, when the agency introduced the SMV, into the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea for operation and now. The fallout has been the pressure that have been brought on Ghana and Gabon Exclusive Economic Zone, by the Pirates in the recent time.