By Stephen Ubanna
President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General, may have proved pundits wrong that he would not show up in person in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre, on Thursday, June 10, 2021, for the Launching of the much publicised Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Integrated National Security and Water Ways Protection Infrastructure, popular, Deep Blue Project Assets .
The Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, NIMASA, and the Lagos state government may have worked round the clock to ensure that there was no truck laden Containers on the road to create the impression that there was no gridlock at the Apapa Area of the Commercial City.
The deep Blue project was conceived in 2017, by the ministries of Transportation, under the close watch of Rotimi Amaechi, a former governor of Rivers state and Mamman Ali, a retired , Major General and former minister of Defence. This may have informed why Amaechi , had commended Magashi, his successor and the service Chiefs, both past and present, for their Contributions throughout the preliminary stages of the project.
However, he would want the current service Chiefs to take a cue from their Predecessors who made appreciable impact the preliminary stages of the project to sustain the tempo, now t that the maritime Assets have been deployed to guarantee the safety at the Lagos Anchorage Area, SAA, as the Ocean Marine Services Limited, OMSL, a private security outfit engaged by the Navy for such operations have been disengaged by the government.
Recall that OMSL, in partnership with the Nigerian Navy over the years have been providing security services to foreign ships at the SAA, for $2,000 , per day at the Lagos ports of Apapa and Tin can Island at the designated SAA. The Value News learnt that the Navy, OMSL and other Private security outfits use close to 300 escort vessels to secure ocean going vessels in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
The katsina state born Nigerian President, at the instance of Amaechi, the minister of Transportation, Dakuku Peterside, a former director General of NIMA and his Management Team, had awarded a $195 million contract to an Israeli security firm, HLSI Systems and Technologies Limited, for the delivery of the Land facilities which comprises of the Command, Control , Communication, Computer and Intelligence Center,C4i , supply of two Special Mission vessels and 16 fast interceptor boats for the sea operations, of the anti-piraccy war.
This is in addition to the air assets which comprises of two Special Mission Aircraft for Surveillance of the country’s exclusive Economic zone and three Special Mission Helicopters for Search and Rescue operations and four unmanned aerial vehicles.
Bashir Jamoh, the Director General , NIMASA, and his officials , were said to have received one of the two Special Mission Aircraft, Cesna Citation CJ3, on May 12, 2021, at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Air Force base, Ikeja, Lagos, remaining one that is yet to be delivered by the Israeli security firm.
The Israeli firm may have expedited action in the execution of the $195 million contract as the Nigerian government, on its part , had not defaulted on the monthly instalmental payments over the period of 36 months, agreed from July 2017 to June 2020. NIMASA , also was said to have paid the Israeli firm $19,630,000 as Management training consideration, as contained in the Appendix 4, of the Agreement for the contract for the project, which were said to have been paid on monthly instalments for a period of 36 months.
The Company was said to have also been paid N59 million ,830,000.00 , to secure and survey Nigerian coastal waterways , which was said to be higher than the annual capital expenditure of the Nigerian Navy in 2019.
Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General may have a hint of the planned Launching of the Deep Blue project by the Nigeria President , on May 12, 202, when the agency received one of the Surveillance Aircrafts that would be deployed to for operations to prevent pipeline vandalism, oil theft, illegal bunkering, arms smuggling, drug trafficking, human trafficking Piracy and illegal fishing in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. There are indications that the Surveillance Aircrafts, would also be deployed for pollution prevention and control in the Nigerian maritime domain.
The Magazine gathered that between May 12, 2021, and June 10, 2021, Jamoh and his officials in Collaboration with the officials of the ministries of Transportation and Defence had worked towards the Launching of the multi-million dollars, Deep Blue Project assets in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve centre. They were said to have closely worked with Usman Alkali Baba, the Inspector General of Police, eIGP, to ensure that adequate security was provided was provided in the city to give the Nigerian a president a breather to Commission the Maritime assets at Apapa without any form of protests over the Apapa bad road by aggrieved agents.
It was surprising why tZubairu Muazu, the Lagos state Commissioner of Police, at the instance of the Baba, the IGP, had deployed hundreds of policemen, armed to the teeth at strategic locations in Ikeja, Yaba, Ebute Metta and Apapa, particular, to forestall any protest .This may have informed why there was absolute Calm in these flashpoint point areas in Lagos, where Buhari had two projects to Commission, thus killing two birds with one stone.
He was said to have Commissioned the Deep Blue Project assets at Apapa, which , the minister of Defence had ‘’ said aims ‘’ to prevent illegal activities in the Exclusive Economic zone , enforce maritime regulations.enhance safety of lives at sea and prevent illegal activities in the inland waterways’’.
Between 2017 and now, NIMASA, officials have been at the forefront of implementing the project and following the HLSI, the Israeli Company which had won the $195 million to supply the maritime security Assets bumper to bumper to ensure that they keep to the terms of the agreement without defaulting to avoid shifting the gold post.
By Commissioning the maritime Assets, the NIMASA, helmsman and his Management Team, appear to have been given the nod to deploy the Assets into Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, for operations to forestall criminality . Many believe that Buhari may have been encouraged to Commission the maritime Assets to send a message to the Pirates operating in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, that it is no longer going to be business as usual , following the attack on a Turkish Container ship, MV, Mozat, manned by Boden shipping, which provides technical agreement for the vessel off the coast of Nigerian waters , resulting in the kidnap of 15 Sailors and the death of one Azerbaijani sailor. The Liberia flagged vessel, according to NIMASA, report, was sailing from Lagos , Nigeria, to Cape town in South Africa, when it was attacked by Pirates , some 100 nautical miles , north west of the Island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.
An elated Magashi, the minister of Defence, had told those that cares to listen that with the Commissioning of the Deep Blue Project Assets by the Nigerian President, ‘’safety is guaranteed in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea for Container ships and other cargoes vessels, noting that ‘’it would further attract , Foreign Direct Investment, FDIs, into the country’’.