By Stephen Ubanna
When Bashir Jamoh, a one-time Executive Director, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, was appointed the Director General of the agency in March 10, 2020, nobody gave him opportunity to succeed in the anti-piracy war in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
The pundits have their reason. This is because of past efforts by for Director Generals to contain the activities of the Pirates in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea had failed, thus turning the region as ‘’the world’s Pirates hotspot’’.
The International Maritime Bureau, IMB a global Piracy Reporting centre, in its first quarter report of 2021, had said that out of the 38, incidents, the world-over, 33 vessels were boarded, including two attempted attacks and two vessels fired upon . It had reported that one vessel was hijacked and 22 Crew members kidnapped and one killed.
The IMB, may have alluded to the violent attack on a Turkish Container ship, MV MOZART, which was hijacked off Nigeria’s coast and 15 Crew members kidnaped and an Azerbaijani seafarer killed, off the coast of Nigeria last January.
The violent attack on the Turkish Container ship, resulting the death of anAzerbaijani seafarer may have forced Jamoh, the NIMASA, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, and his Management Team to go back to the drawing board to speed up the work on the 195 billion Integrated National Security and Waterways and Protection Infrastructure, popular, Deep Blue Project.
The top officials of the agency were said to have piled up pressure on the Israeli security firm, HLS International Security Systems and Technologies Limited which had had won the $195 billion contract to supply the maritime security equipment to hasten effort in doing so because of the challenges posed by the Pirates and sea thieves in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
Recall that based on the agreement, the Israeli security firm , had supplied 16 armoured vessels to the Maritime Regulatory agency for coastal Patrols, two Special Mission Patrol vessels, 17 Interceptor boats, two Special Mission aircrafts for surveillance of Nigerian’s exclusive economic zone and three Special Mission helicopters for Search and Rescue.
Even without the full deployment of the maritime security equipment into the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, to start operations, the Leadership of the agency and the Nigerian Navy, were said to have restrategised on how effectively tackle the Pirates operating in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
The two agencies personnel, including the Nigerian Force, may have been emboldened to deal with the Pirates and the sea thieves the with the deployment of some of Maritime equipment last February, into Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea forcing most of the Pirates to sheath their sword.
Jamoh, may have gladdened the heart of Nigerians when he said that the policy of the new Management which include maritime security , maritime safety, particular, is working out as the Pirates who were making illegal profit in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, which Rotimi Amaechi , a former governor of Rivers state and minister of Transportation had put at $25 million , annually are being frustrated with the deployment of the maritime security vessels for operations in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. Nigerian
He had said that in May,2021, only two cargo vessels were attacked by Pirates. The agency operation offices , with the support of the Isiaka Oladayo Amao, a Vice Admiral led Navy, have continued to use the Special Mission vessels to Patrol the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, thus making it difficult for any Prate gang to regroup and attack any Nigerian bound vessel laden with cargoes in the recent time.
The IMB, the global Piracy Reporting centre, PRC, officials may have taken particular note of this significant achievement by NIMASA.. The IMB, had ported to the cherry of Industry stakeholders that the number of Kidnapped Crew in the one-time World Pirates hotspot region had significantly dropped.
An elated Michael Howlett, the CEO, OF ICC Commercial Crime Services, the anti- crime unit of the International Chamber of Commerce,, of which IMB, is a part and a director in the IMB was said to have Commended the efforts of the Katsina state born Nigerian President for his support to the Jamoh, led NIMASA, implementing the government policy in tackling the Challenge of Piracy in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. That much was contained in the recently released second quarter report on the global reduction report of Piracy in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea, over the last 27 years.
The IMB, Director who could not hide his feelings had confirmed that ‘’the number of kidnapping of Crew members in the Gulf of Guinea, in the second quarter of 2021 was the lowest since the second quarters of 2019. He argued that ‘’bringing together the Maritime response authorities and such initiatives as the multi-dollar Deep Blue Project, and the Gulf of Guinea, Maritime Collaboration Forum, which would go a long way to strengthen knowledge sharing channels will further reduce risk to seafarers in the region’’.
There is no gainsaying the fact that Jamoh, the NIMASA, helmsman may have been humbled by the IMB, recent report, on the decline on Pirates activities in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea that he described it ‘’as a welcome development ‘’, reassuring the Bureau and the International Community that the agency would not ‘’rest on its oars in ensuring zero tolerance for Piracy in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’ until it is achieved’’.
The NIMASA, Director General, had attributed the spectacular achievement ‘’to the concerted efforts put in place by the GOG countries, comprising of Nigeria, Cameroon, Republic of Benin, Ghana, Togo, ,Coted’Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Zaire, Democratic Republic of Congo ,Sao Tome and Principe, Liberia and Angola.
This may have informed why he has called for ‘’a more holistic approach in quelling the incidences of Piracy attacks on ocean going vessels laden with cargoes in the region to avoid sending a wrong signal to the International Community in the future.
The NIMASA Director General, who could not hide his feelings had told those that cares to listen that ‘’matters concerning maritime security are everybody’s business as no country has immunity against insecurity and Piracy –related offences’’.
Given an insider information, of the agency efforts in tackling the menace, he had said that ‘’crime is usually a step ahead of every organized society , hence the need to step up all regional efforts through continuous synergy and enhanced information sharing in the west and Central African sub-regions.He cited the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime related offences, SPOMO, Act, which was singned into Law by the Nigerian President on June 24, 2019 to prosecute and punish Criminalities in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. In Port H Already, a Federal High Court in PorHarcourt, Capital of Rivers state had made the first Convictions the new anti-piracy Law, which hav hope to the world shipping fleets that legal reforms will help stem rising attacks in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
The three convicted Pirates were said to be among the nine accused of hijacking the oil Tanker MV Elobey VI off Equatorial Guinea in March 2019 and securing a $200,000 ransom for the Crew. The Court had fined the three convicted Pirates N10million or $26,300 each to the two accounts of Piracy to which they were said to have pleaded guilty.
Aware that that any Pirate caught in the Act would go in for it may have informed why many of them have become very cautious and subsequent reduction in the criminal activities in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. Jamoh had said that with the consistent reduction of criminal cases in the region, Nigeria will be engaging the International Maritime Community in the near future ‘’with the intention of removing the War Risk Premium’’, charged on vessels calling at the Lagos and south east ports’’.