By Stephen Ubanna
For years Pirates had turned the Gulf of Guinea, GoG, as a haven for their nefarious activities. The situation wa sso worrisome as Ocean going vessels were regularly attacked. Until the anti-piracy war took the center state at the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, under the close watch of Dakuku Perterside, about four years ago, Ibok Ekwe-Ibas, a Vice Admiral and Chief Naval Staff and his Officers in the Eastern and Western Commands had tackled the menace of the pirates headlong in Nigerian waterways.
Security watchers believe that the anti-pirates war, was given a bite with the appointment of Dakuku Peterside, as the Director General, NIMASA, about four years ago. From the onset, the NIMASA Director General, was said to have declared the agency unwavering commitment to its leadership role in the war on piracy and other maritime crime in the GoG region, an area widely considered the global challenging maritime crime base.
There is no gain saying the fact that GoG countries including Nigeria were facing serious security challenges that needed global support and Cooperation to tackle the problem.
Peterside, may have been encouraged to initiate security measures to tackle the piracy in the region because of the huge deposit of Oil and gas in the country which makes it a place of interest for international Oil trading Companies. The country’s geo-strategic location and big deltas, believed to be the largest in the world and the thousands of creeks in the Niger Delta, was a clear indication that it must be policed in order not to give room to pirates to molest ocean going vessels in the nation’s water ways.
This may have given the determination to approach the menace through a total spectrum maritime strategy which involves law enforcement, capacity building , regional cooperation ,response capability building and enhanced maritime dormain awareness for all agencies of government involved in maritime security. He has vowed to make kidnapping and other violent crimes in the region a thing of the past.
True to his words, he had initiated security measures that had put the waterways pirates on the check. This is evident as some of the noticeable violent crimes in the country’s waterways have disappeared as most of the pirates have been forced to go underground to avoid falling into the waiting hands of the Maritime regulatory agency Surveillance Officials who are working closely with the Navy.
Security watchers, believe that the pirates may have known that they are in in for trouble with the inauguration of the Integrated Security and Water Ways Infrastructure, popular, Deep Project, by Rotimi Amaechi , a former governor of Rivers state and minister of Transportation.
While inaugurating the project last year, the minister had repeatedly made it clear to those that cares to listen that the 853 Km long Nigerian Coastline and the country’s location in the GoG, has made it strategic for both maritime activities and securities to thrive.
According to him, the Deep Blue Project, is a conscious efforts towards addressing ‘’ illegality in the country’s territorial waters and indeed, the GoG in general.
The Deep Blue Sea project, which many believe is a multi-faceted involved the training of selected officers from the various strata of the security services and NIMASA as well the acquisition of assets to combat maritime crime.
Insiders informed The Value News that the agency under the close watch of the amiable Peterside has acquired some fast intervention assets , surveillance craft, and other facilities, including engaging in information sharing that will aid the country’s goals of targeted enforcement with member countries in the GoG.
Given the enhanced ant-piracy war, The International Maritime Bureau, IMB, had reported a drop in the piracy attacks sea-going vessels in Nigeria in the third quarter of this year. In its latest report recently released, the Bureau gave Nigeria kudo for putting the necessary security measures in place which had succeeded in reducing the piracy attacks from in the region from 41 in 2018 to a manageable figure of 29 in 2019,” o, which indicates a 30 percent drop.
The piracy reporting body also said there was a decrease in global piracy incidents during the first nine months of 2019, compared to the corresponding period in 2018, showing a five-year drop.
Isechei Osamgbi, a Deputy Director, and the NIMASA, Spokesperson attributed the decline in piracy activities in the GoG and violent attacks on vessels to the Deep Blue Project, an indication that the Nigeria’s Integrated Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, have begun to yield results.
Note that the project is currently being handled by an Israeli firm, Homeland Security International ,HLSI. Going by their mandate, it involves the training of field and technical operatives drawn from the various strata of the security services and NIMASA as well as acquisition of assets to combat maritime crime, such as fast intervention vessels, surveillance aircraft, and other facilities, and establishment of a command and control center for data collection and information sharing to aid targets.
Many believe that the timing of the IMB report, coincides with the conclusion of the Global Maritime Security Conference, GMSC 2019, recently hosted by Nigeria, and coordinated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and NIMASA, under the theme, “Managing and Securing our Waters.”
‘’With the stated objective of defining the nature and scope of coordinated responses to maritime insecurity in relation to interventions, the conference had enabled global maritime leaders to review the progress made in the fight against maritime crime while charting strategies for the future’’, Osamgbi had said.
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