By Nwangwu Uba
Barely one month of entering into a working arrangement with Global Outreach and Region Support of INTERPOL, the ministry of Transportation and the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, have entered into another partnership with HLSI, ostensibly to halt maritime insecurity in Nigerian waters and stop revenue leakages caused by such security challenges.
That much was confirmed by Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and outgoing minister of minister of Transportation in an interactive session on the issues and progress on the nation’s maritime sector , with Captains of the industry , and major shipping Companies including other figures in the industry.
Amaechi, who enthused with the signing of the deal with the private security Company , insists that pirates and other criminal elements must be chased out from Nigerian waters to make safe and attractive for more voyaging vessels and more and increased foreign investment.
Going by the Ministry of Transportation/ NIIMASA and HLSI systems Collaboration, ”all vessels plying Nigerian waters could easily be identified and monitored from one location to another throughout their stay in Nigeria to ascertain all activities conducted”.
The ministry/NIMASA may have been forced to enter into the security deal with HLSI, because of the circumstances surrounding the recently hijacked MT Apecus , which the agency in its investigation found had been trading in the country without any valid permits or documentation.
It was also observed that the vessel has changed name and flag under which she operates on Nigerian waters not less than 15 recorded instances to continue with illegal trading activities in the country. This is in addition to five changes in call sign since 1993 and four MMSI changes , which all point to her suspected involvement in illegal trading activities in Nigerian waters.
Maritime watchers believe
In making a presentation on the ”establishment of an Integrated National Security and Waterway Protection Infrastructure in Nigeria- Deep Blue Project , in which the Company reviewed the progress recorded in both the areas of procurement of maritime security assets and human capacity involving training courses, he noted that to date, ”c41 systems operator, Intelligence operator and Basic Infantry training courses have successfully conducted in the country.
The HLSI Representative disclosed that the training programme was given to well trained graduates , noting that a timetable for the delivery of maritime security assets has been laid out . Given an overview of the Deep Blue project, he reveals that the system would be providing a 360 degree, eagle eye view of the country maritime domain , thus equipping NIMASA, which is the designated agency saddled with responsibility of regulating the nation’s maritime Industry with a comprehensive and real time information on every activity conducted by ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters. This is bad news for oil thieves and pirates, as they would not have the opportunity to carry out their nefarious trade any longer.
While the ministry of Transportation/ NIMASA are determined to flush out the pirates from Nigerian waters, the Nigerian Navy , on their are leaving no stone unturned to Nigerian waters uncomfortable for the pirates. Beegory Ibe- Enwo, a Rear Admiral and Chief of Policy and Plans , Naval Headquarters, reportedly said that the Navy was expecting delivery of four 17 -meters fast interceptor Boats it had placed order for, stressing that the security equipment b were expected to be delivered this 2019 to tackle insecurity in Nigerian waters.
The Rear Admiral said the Navy have also started negotiations with another supplier that would could culminate in the procurement of a 100 meters Landing Ship Tank, LST, expected to be delivered by June 2020 were also going. The Western Naval Command intensified patrol of Nigerian waters was said to have resulted in the arrest of 52 vessels carrying out illegal activities in Nigerian waters and no for various alleged piracy related offences. fewer than 40 persons . The Naval to shot disclosed at a recent Seminar on maritime offences and procedures to Arrest and detention of Ships in Nigerian maritime Environment , that quite a lot under its custody are under litigation and Investigation.
Femi Falana, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, SAN, may have not found the detention of the 40 Nigerians funny, as he had written the National Human Rights Commission that the Naval Authorities gave the false impression that the detainees had been transferred to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission , EFCC, for the purpose of charging them with criminal offences at the Federal High Court.
The legal luminary had also written President Muhammadu Buhari, complaining that the detainees who are held in incommunicado in ” dehumanising conditions for periods ranging from six to eight months. He lamented that some of the detainees are incarcerated in an underground military detention facility in Abuja while others were held inside one of the vessels impounded by the Navy.
There are indications that the Naval Authority may not heed to the demand of the Lagos SAN to release the detainees, insisting that there was a clue that they were pirates operating in Nigerian waters. Ibe-Enwo, the Rear Admiral, opined that piracy has wide network which involved a lot of nationals from other countries, insisting that it has a lot of international Characterisation.
He may have alluded to NIMASA when he said that the appropriate prosecuting government agencies are” looking very closely into the matter”. Recall that the maritime regulatory agency and the Navy have been working round the clock over the last three and half years to dislodge the pirates operating in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
It is not surprising why maritime watchers fear that it would be very difficult for the 40 persons in the Navy custody to regain their freedom for now because of the insistence that they were pirates.
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