By Stephen Ubanna
For weeks , there had been rumours making the rounds that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, under the close watch of Bashir Jamoh, have concluded arrangements for the official Launching of the $195 million, Integrated National Security and Water Ways Protection Infrastructure, popular, Deep Blue Project, assets, preparatory for deployment into Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Gunea for operations to contain the activities of Pirates and sea robbers.
The multi-million dollar project was said to have been initiated by the Federal ministries of Transport and Defence in 2017 but implemented by NIMASA. The Project which is expected to be Launched by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Army General in Lagos, the nation’s Commercial nerve center on Thursday, June 10, 2021, main objective , according to Jamoh, the NIMASA, Directo General, ‘’is to protect Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’. Given an insider information of the project, he disclosed that’’ it has three categories of Platforms to tackle maritime insecurity on Land, water and air’’ . The Land assets , he said include the Command, Control, Communication and Intelligence Centre,C4i, for Intelligence gathering and data collection.
Dakuku Peterside, a former Director General of the agency, may have given hope for the execution of the project without failing with the development of C4i and taken delivery the first set of the maritime assets from HLSI Systems and Technologies Limited, the Israeli Firm which had won the contract before the expiration of his first four years in office, which was not renewed by the Katsina state born Nigerian President.
. The Project which was however, inherited by Jamoh, a one-time Executive Director, Finance And Administration, of the agency, during Dakuku’s Administration on Mach 10, 2020 and who knew much about the Project and the progress of work done was said to have to have sustained the tempo .
The rumour to Launch the Deep Blue project assets by the Nigerian President became more pronounced last May when the Maritime Regulatory agency took delivery of the first of the two Cesna Citation CJ3, maritime Surveillance Aircraft, from the Israeli Firm, which had the $195 contract to supply the maritime assets for the Project.
Recall that in taking delivery of the Surveillance Aircraft at the Murtala Muhammed International Airport, MMIA, Ikeja, Lagos , Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, had described it as’’ the final phase and installation of the assets under the Deep Blue project, to police the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea and secure it from the activities of Pirates and sea robbers’’.
The assets that were said to have been delivered to agency by the Israel firm between last year and now which are expected to be Launched by the Nigerian President on Thursday, June 10, 2021, included two Special Mission vessels, and 16 Fast Interceptor boats for sea operations. This is in addition to the Air Assets which comprises of two Special Mission Aircraft for Surveillance of the counry’s Exclusive Economic zone and three Special Mission Helicopters for Search and Rescue Operations and four umanned Aerial vehicles.
Maritime analysts believe that the deployment of the maritime assets for operations after the Thursday, June 10, 2021, Launching of the Project by the retired Army General, ‘’will go a long way to reduce the ship owners’ reliance on private security Companies to protect them’’ in the sea, off the coast of Nigeria. At present the ships supporting Companies coming to Nigeria with Tankers to lift Crude Oil and cargo vessels are said to be approximately 200 privately owned escort vessels, including those owned by the Nigerian Navy at a cost of between $8,000 and $10,000 per day, Amaechi, the minister of Transport had said.
As a prelude to the planned Launching of the Multi-million dollar, Deep Blue Project, Philip Kaynet, a Deputy Director, Corporate Communications, NIMASA, who had issued a Statement, had said that ‘’preparatory to the Launch of the Project, the Maritime Security Unit, , MSU, comprising of personnel from the Nigerian Navy, Army ,Air Force, Police, and the Department of State Services, DSS, are conducting ‘’simulation exercises for the all- important event, on Land, air and the sea to confirm their readiness for deployment for operations in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’. The NIMASA, spokesperson disclosed that ‘’the various military Formations in the south west geopolitical region are already aware of such an exercise’’.
Appealing to the general public to be Calm while the exercise is on-going, particular, those living in the Coastal Communities of the region , he disclosed that the exercise ‘’is only meant to test the readiness of the maritime security assets for operations.’’. The 600 specially trained troops by the Israeli security firm for interdiction, popular, MSU, are said to be on high spirit.
Prior to the decision to invite Buhari, to Launch the Deep Blue Project, the Presidential Committee comprising of Amaechi, a the minister of Transport, Bashir Magashi, a retired Major General and minister of Defence, Ibok –Ete Ibas, a retired Vice Admiral and a former Chief of Naval Staff, CNS, a position now occupied by Zubairu Gambo, a Vice Admiral, and officials of NIMASA, including Jamoh, the Director General, had inspected the maritime assets stored at the various Locations in Lagos, Warri and other south- south geopolitical region locations.
Informed sources told The Value News, that the pressure that was mounted on the HLSI and Technologies Limited, by NIMASA under the present Management may have forced the Israeli Firm which had won the contract to supply the maritime assets to do so, to forestall shifting the gold post for the deployment of the equipment for operations in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
An elated Jamoh , had said that ‘’the deployment of the assets for operations was a clear indication that ‘’the Project has entered another level of national security designed for total spectrum of maritime security and better domain awareness using some of the latest maritime technology’’.
There is no gain saying the fact that with the planned lLaunching of the maritime assets by Buhari, Commander In-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forcers, and subsequent deployment for operations in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea, Pirates, who have been harassing ocean-going cargo vessels in the region are in trouble as they would be forced to go underground.
Believed to the be the first integrated Maritime Security strategy in the West and Central African sub-regions, the Deep Blue Project , which Jamoh, the NIMASA boss had said ‘’is aimed at tackling the incidences of piracy, sea robbery and maritime crimes at sea’’ will achieve its purpose.
Last year prosecution, of some arrested suspected Pirates with the support of Naval personnel on patrol even when the ministry of Transport, Maritime agency have not deployed its procured Deep Blue assets, has given a signal that more of such Pirates would be rounded up soon by the specially trained MSU, troops, who will man the assets in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
It is not surprising why Jamoh, had told those that cares to listen that with the agency efforts to secure the Nigerian waters,’’ it will give the people leverage to harness the enormous resources of the country’s maritime environment and aid the drive towards economic diversification’’.