By Stephen Ubanna
Until Bashir Jamoh’s appointment as the Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, on March 10, 2020, by President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria had been listed by the International community as one of the countries with the worst form of piracy.
The situation w so bad that some of the ship ownersrefused to allow their vessels to carry cargoes to Nigeria for fear of being attacked by pirates and sea robbers in the nation’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea, GoG. This may have encouraged Jamoh and his Management Team from the onset to go back to the drawing board to restrategise to change the narrative and with the overwhelming support of the Katsina state born Nigerian President and the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, under the close watch of Kitack Lim, the agency got it right.
The NIMASA, Director General, may have taken advantage of the Presidential Telecommunications Team, briefing at the Villa, in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, recently, to declare that such criminal activities ‘’no longer exist in Nigerian waters or the GoG’’, stressing that’ ‘the nation’s territorial waters are now safer for ocean-going vessels than can be imagined by any person both within and outside the country’’.
He was said to have told those at the Presidential Telecommunication briefings that since March, 2021, and now, that there had not been any of form piracy attack on any ocean-going vessel in Nigerian waters and the GoG, that has been recorded because of the inter-agency Collaboration which have tightened up security in Nigerian waters.
This is evident going by the number vessels from the Asian countries of China, India, South Korea and the North American country of the United States, including the United Kingdom, UK, and other trading partners, that frequently call at the Lagos ports of Apapa, Tincan Island, Port Multi-services Terminal Limited, PTML and the south east port of Onne, on a daily basis, showing ‘’the cancellation of the stigma placed on Nigeria as the most dangerous waters in the world’’.
The NIMASA, Chief Executive Officer, CEO, had confirmed that ‘’Nigeria had been ‘’exited from the list of countries with the worst form of Pirate and sea robbery, activities for the first time in March, 2022’’. Given reasons why the agency could achieve that much in its anti-piracy operations over the last two years, Jamoh, had said that they had established ‘’a Joint Industry Working Group to open our system to the international community, which they did.
According to him, members of the Industry Working Group, had made the international Community to know that Nigeria is not the only country in the world where Pirates and sea robbers operate, noting that there was no basis listing Nigeria as one of the countries with the worst form of Piracy activities in the world.
An informed source told The Value News that the group, and other industry stakeholders, which meet every month to discuss the level of security achieved in the nation’s maritime domain and the GoG, may have been encouraged that signals were sent out to the International shipping Companies that there was no basis to worry about the Nigerian waters or the GoG, as it is now safe as security is very tight for any of the criminal element to dare the security patrol on regular patrol.
The performance of the Joint Working Group, may have informed why the Maritime Regulatory agency had signed a working agreement with past and present Leadership of the Nigerian Navy and the International Coordinating Centre, located in Yaounde, Capital of the Central African country of Cameroon, ostensibly ‘’to address and discuss on what further to do tighten the security of the nation’s maritime domain and entire GoG.
The NIMASA, boss, had stated that the agency anti-piracy operations was strengthened with the introduction of the Deep Blue Project by the Nigerian government which had made it possible for the agency to procure various Platforms.
The procurement of the Platforms was said to have been possible with the engagement of an Israeli security Company, HLSI Systems and Technologies Limited, in 2017, at a contract sum of N195 billion, to procure and deliver some security equipment to the maritime agency, in order to sustain its anti-piracy war, across the Nigerian waters and the GoG.
Between 2020 and now, the Israeli firm, was said to have delivered 17 Interception Boats, 16 armoured vehicles, meant for Costal patrols, Two Special ,Mission Vessels, which according to the NIMASA, helmsman, have ‘’the capacity of dynamic positioning as it can enter into the Creeks and search for the Pirates and sea thieves without getting stocked’’. He noted that the vessels, which are currently being managed and operated by Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo , led Nigerian Navy, ‘’can be kept at the sea for a number of days’’.
The Israeli firm was said to have equally delivered to the agency Two Special Mission aircrafts that was said to have been fitted with a 24/7 special cameras which an insider had said could be used ‘’to film any location or environment and send signals out immediately and an additional three Helicopters including four unmanned aerial vehicles which are being operated and maintained by `Air Marshal Oladayo Olayinka led Nigeria Air Force, NAF.
The impressive performance of the Jamoh led NIMASA, in its anti-piracy war may have encouraged the South Korea Authorities, to make provision for one additional vessel to support the agency. Recall that Jamoh said that the country would need about $1.4 million to sail the vessel to the country. It could not be ascertained whether the agency has taken delivery of the vessel or not.
Note that the NIMASA, CEO,had taken the opportunity provided by the Presidential Telecommunication briefing to give an insight of the agency introduction of the concept of marine litter and plastic action plan through which ‘’wastes are discarded like empty water bottles and sachets of water which , analysts had said are not harmful to aquatic lives. The agency may not have secured the approval of the IMO, the United Nation,UN’s Maritime agency, before going ahead to implement the plan.
While the Jamoh, led NIMASA, have been acknowledged by Muazu Jaji Sambo, the minister of Transportation and industry operators for the role it has played over the last two years in achieving a robust regional collaboration to enhance safety in the nation’ maritime domain and the GoG, the US Coast Guard Command, USCGC, which is also impressed by the performance of the agency, given the remarks by Brian Lisko, an Army Captain , attached to the US, Department of State, may have gladdened the heart of Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, when he disclosed during his recent visit to Nigeria that the USCGC, ‘’desires an improved collaboration with NIMASA and other relevant agencies ‘’in maintaining the momentum of the recent successes that had resulted in the agency recording one year of piracy free Nigerian waters’’.
Captain Lisko, who was on a fact finding visit to the Management of NIMASA, was aid to have ‘’commended the leading role’’ which the Jamo led Management Team of NIMASA, has played in reducing piracy in the in the nation’s maritime domain and the GoG, through the deployment of the Deep Blue Project security equipments as well as its partnership with other maritime nations. ‘’The international Community has taken note of this and we wish to encourage you to keep it up’’, he had said.
Indeed, the agency impressive performance in its anti-piracy war may have encouraged the Leadership of the USCGC, ‘’to propose deploying an Adviser to Lagos’’, but with Consent of the Nigerian government. The USCGC, Authorities, Captain Lisko, had said that the proposed Adviser will be reporting back to the Washington DC,‘s office of the government agency .
The US, Department of State, military attaché, did not stop there. He had said that more technical experts and tools to assist the NIMASA’S effort would be deployed to the country based on the techinical Adviser’s report. Captain Lisko, may have made Nigerians to understand that the goal of the USCGC, visit to Nigeria ‘‘is to study the country maritime stakeholders and NIMASA.
He had said that the Maritime Regulatory agency had been included on its study list because of its reputation and scope of responsibilities. He noted that ‘’the ultimate goal of the USCGC, is ‘’to help its partners by working hand in hand in the area of Port state control and maritime Administration’’.
This is not the first time a top official of the USCGC, was sad to have visited Nigeria, to rub mind with NIMASA officials. That much was confirmed by the NIMASA, Director General. He had said that in the past, when the USCGC, officials, had visited Nigeria, they were said to have ‘’conducted an assessment tours of the country’s numerous jetties to ascertain the ISPS compliance levels’’.
It was not surprising why the NIMASA boss, had said that the agency ‘‘welcome a resumption of these visits’’ as the agency believe that the USCGC, will increase its support to the agency ‘‘ in terms of technical assistance as promised’’.