By Stephen Ubanna
Barely one week after the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture, agreed to continuously Collaborate on ‘’modalities for Registration, survey and Licensing of fishing vessels to ensure that all safety standards are met’’, Bashir Jamoh, Director General, of the Maritime Regulatory agency, has restated ‘’the need for enhanced stakeholders collaboration in tackling Piracy and sea thieves in the Nigerian Economic Exclusive Zone, EEZ, and the Gulf of Guinea.
Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, had made the call in the ancient city of Kano, when he presented a paper titled ‘’Enhancing Collaboration amongst stakeholders for Improved Maritime security in Nigeria’’at the Chief of Naval Staff Annual Conference, CONSAC, amidst great applause.
Drawing example from the terrorist attacks of 9-11 on the North American country of the United States, US, in 2001, and the report of the 9-11 Commission, which had indicted the security agencies Operatives for failing to share real-time intelligence, may have informed why the NIMASA Chief Executive Officer, CEO, had urged industry stakeholders ‘’to learn to share their toys’’ in a bid to close ranks and tighten the security ring around the nation’s maritime domain against Piracy and other maritime-related crimes.
The NIMASA CEO, had Observed that ‘’the economic cost of maritime insecurity was more pronounced in Nigeria compared to other countries in the West and Central African sub-regions. He noted that while the economic cost of Piracy activities in the Asian countries, including China, was estimated at $4.5 million in 2016, the estimated economic cost of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea was about $793.7 million’’.
He had identified sources in which insecurity leads to loss of revenue in the nation’s maritime sector ‘’as ransom payment , re-routing of cargoes, security equipment, losses to oil thieves, fishing Industry and cost of security escort of cargo vessels hired by shipping Companies to forestall Pirates attack.
Studies was said to have also identified the following factors as the drivers of maritime insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea region, particular. They include an increase in ship traffic in the region as a result of globalization, the debilitating Leadership of many of the states in the region.
Note that the proliferation of small arms, poor monitoring and control of the oceans and criminality was said to have further aggravated by the situation , including visible youth unemployment, high level of poverty and economic hardship.The NIMASA helmsman, who could not hide his feelings opined that ‘’the impacts of these challenges are far-reaching and require all concerned stakeholders to Collaborate to tackle this menace’’, which many believed have grown wings.
Also drawing examples from other climes like the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia, RECAAP, , the NIMASA, boss, showed that stakeholders Collaboration has been used to tackle maritime insecurity in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. He was said to have cited the five clusters of Nigerian maritime collaboration as the Armed Forces/National Security Group,(Army, Navy Air Force, ) , Nigerian Agency For Food and Drug Administration, NAFDAC, Nigerian Customs Service, NCS, under the close watch f Hameed Ali, a retired Army Colonel, Nigerian Police Force, NPF, Nigerian Immigration service, NIMS and the Nigerian Drug Law Enforcement Agency, including the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation , NNPC and the Department of Petroleum Resources, DPR.
It was also said to be Collaborating in its anti-piracy operations through sharing of information with National Environmental Standards and Regulatory Enforcement Agency, NESREA, National Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency, NOSDRA, Nigerian Inland Water Ways Authority, NIWA as well as the Disaster Management Agencies, NEMA.
He may have won the heart of the Participants at the CONSAC, when he listed some of the Collaborative efforts by the agency to address the nation’s maritime insecurity over the last one year which have yielded results. This include the implementation of the Deep Blue Project, in which HLS Systems and Technologies Limited, the Israeli firm that had won the $195 million contract for supply of the security assets had delivered to the agency, 17 Interceptor Boats, 16 Armoured vessels, for Patrol of coastal areas, two Special Mission Vessels, SMV. Two Special Mission aircrafts, SMA, for Search and Rescue Operations, three Special Helicopters and four unmanned Aerial vehicles.
Indeed, the supply of the maritime security assets to NIMASA, according to informed sources have improved the Collaborative efforts of the agency and the Nigeria Air Force and The Nigeria Navy as it has brought the trios of Jamoh, Isiaka Oladayo Amao, an Air Marshall, Chief of Staff, Nigerian Air Force and Awwal Zubairu Gambo, a Vice Admiral and the Chief of Naval Staff, into a closer working relationship. While the Nigerian Navy which is managing the sea assets of the Deep Blue Project had trained 30 officers, the NAF, had trained 43 officers to man the air security assets. Prior to the involvement of the the Nigeria Navy and the Nigerian Air force on the Deep Blue Project, NIMASA and had been Collaborating in tackling the Pirates and sea thieves.
The deployment of the maritime assets appear to have become a nightmare to the Pirates and sea thieves as many of them who could no longer bear the heat have relocated to other countries in the West and Central African sub-regions, particular, Ghana and Gabon, to practice their nefarious trade.
Another of such Collaborative efforts was the enactment of the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences, SPOMO, Act, 2019. This is in addition to Community Agreements and the strengthening of the Navies of the Gulf of Guinea region, Collaboration with the CEOs of Maritime Organisations , tagged, Joint Maritime Working Group, JMIWG, Engagements with the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air force, Marine Police, Customs, Immigration and the Gulf of Guinea-Maritime Collaboration Forum/Shard Awareness and Deconfliction (GoG- MCF/SHADE).
It is instructive to note that the Federal ministry of Transportation, agency, may not have limited its Collaborative efforts to the military and Para-military Institutions in Nigerian but had extended it to the International Maritime Organistation, IMO, INTERPOL, Regional Organisations, shipping operators, private security companies, Submarine Cable Operators and Seafarers Organisations in order to contain the activities of pirates and sea thieves.
Determined to sustain the tempo of the anti-piracy war in the GoG, particular, Jamoh has called for the deployment of more resources for technical assistance for capacity building and expansion of automation systems for monitoring the maritime sector in order to enhance ‘’ the nation’s capacity for cooperation against trans-national maritime crime and terrorism with potentials to adopt a more participatory approach to maritime insecurity’’.
This may have informed why he had said that ‘’working together is the best approach to defend our seas, enhance maritime security , promote trade , protect the environment and guarantee good quality of life of our people’’
. Between 2016 and now, the Nigerian Navy Patrol Teams have arrested Vessels and Pirates at different times and handed over to NIMASA for prosecution. Take for instance, in May 15, 2020, barely three months in office, Ibok-Ete Ekwe Ibas, a Vice Admiral, and the then CNS, had handed over ten Pirates who were arrested for attacking a Chinese vessel, MV HAILUFANG 11, off the coast of Coted’Ivoiore and directed it towards Nigeria waters for prosecution . Last June, the Navy had arrested MV Soteria, for defaulting her Automatic Identification System, AIS, and handed over NIMASA, for necessary action.
Maritime analysts believe that the Naval Authorities both past and present could not have handed over the arrested Pirates or vessels to NIMAS,if there was no collaboration.it is not surprising why Jamoh, the Kaduna state born NIMASA Director General has been harping on the need for Collaboration among the maritime stakeholders to tackle Piracy and sea thieves in Nigerian waters.
Vice Amiral Gambo, the Chief of Naval Staff, may have taken advantage of the CONSAC in Kano, to honour the NIMASA Director General,’’ for promoting civil-military cohesion’’.