By Stephen Ubanna
When Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, pursued with vigour, the Israeli security firm, HLS International Security Systems and Technologies Limited, that had won the $195 billion contract in 2017, to ensure that it delivers the agreed maritime equipment , he has his reason
Perhaps, to ensure that the maritime equipment are effectively manned by Nigerians, the agency was said to have also engaged the Israeli firm in the training of the officers to man the maritime security equipment tocomplement the 600 other officers drawn from the military, Department of State Security, DSS, Nigerian Police Force, NPF, and the Nigerian Civil Defence Commission, NCDC trained in locally.
The Israeli security had a mandate based on the deal to supply 16 armoured vessels for coastal patrol, two Special Mission, Patrol vessels, 17 Interceptor boats, two Special Mission aircrafts for surveillance of Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic zone, and three Special Mission helicopters for Search and Rescue.
At present he maritime security equipment based on Land, sea and air are Crewed by Nigerians without the engagement of the services of Philippians and other Maritime nations seafarers to do so. The NIMASA , Director General, may have spoken his mind why he decided from the onset to put all efforts to ensure the Completion and Launching of the multi-billion dollar project by President Muhammadu Buhari, a retired army General, last June.
Some of the assets were said to have been deployed for operations to contain the activities of Pirates in the Nigerian waters that are manned by procient officer from the Nigerian security services. Jamoh, the NIMASA, Chief Executive officer, CEO, stated this during the graduation ceremony of the officers that had been trained to Crew the Special Mission Vessels, described as the main maritime component of the projec .
Shehu Ahmed, the agency Executive Director, Operations, who was said to have represented the agency boss, at ceremony may have gladdened the heart of industry stakeholders including the officials of the oil Companies, whose cargo vessels had repeatedly been attacked in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
Prior to the deployment of the Deep Blue maritime security equipment into the Nigerian waters, most of the shipping lines and the oil companies were said to have engaged the services of private maritime security Companies to escort their vessels to the Lagos aAnchorage Area, LAA.
Ahmed, may have spoken the mind of the NIMASA, helmsman when he said that the trained 30 deployed trained officers on sea operations marked ‘’a significant addition to the team of competent personnel already manning the deployed assets under the Depp Blue project.
He is optimistic that that the full deployment of the Special Mission vessels would soon be taken with the fully trained and Certified Crew, that had returned to the country. He was said to have also confirmed that the Crew of the Special Mission vessels have concluded localised training and terrain famiiliarisation courses after their initial technical based training abroad.
Anthony Ogadi, the NIMASA, Training Coordinator of the Deep Blue Project and Director, Planning, Research and Data Management and Services Department, had said that the Crew had nine Foreign courses and ten local trainings in various Platforms of the Deep Blue project under the Coordinator of the HLSI .
The Director had said that some of the local trainings for the operation of other assets under the scheme , including the Special Mission aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and he armoured Personal Carriers were simultaneously on-going at Ikeja, Ojo in Lagos and Elele in Rivers states.Already, Uche Aneke, one of the trained officers, had assured Jamoh and his Managemnt Team, that they would ‘’carry out their duties with a high sense of proficiency and professionalism’’.
It is not surprising why Jamoh, had told those that cares to listen that that newly trained officers is a sure guarantee of the Competent manpower needed in the industry to man the Special Mission vessels, that would force the Pirates and other sea thieves operating in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea to go underground or be kicked out completely where they would never have any opportunity to attack any Container ship or oil cargo vessel.
The NIMASA Executive Director, Operations had alluded to this when he said at the graduation ceremony of the trained officers and award of Certificates, that’’it was a further application of the agency commitment to bequeathing a crime free maritime domain to Nigerians and the international Community’’.
Recall that virtually all the shipping Companies operating between Nigeria and the global trading partners including the oil Companies, had at different times engaged the services of private security firms to escort their vessels. Take for instance, Maersk Line, was said to have spent on a yearly basis $8million as escort security on their vessels on Nigerian waters while Rotimi Aechi, a former governor of Rivers state, and now minister of Transportation averred that the illegal economy on the nation’s waters had hit $25million , an indications that this is the free money that had been entering into the pockets of some powerful Nigerians that call themselves Pirates, operating in Nigerian waters.
The International Maritime Bureau, IMB, Piracy Reporting Centre, had rated Nigeria, Guinea, Togo, Republic of Benin and the Central African country of Cameroon, as the world’s most dangerous countries in Piracy activities in the world. In 2019, it was reported that of the nine ships fired upon by Pirates, eight were at the coast of Nigeria alone.
Many believe that Jamoh, the Nigerian maritime poster boy, may have found an answer to the activities of the Pirates operating in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea with the deployment of the maritime security assets to patrol Nigerian waters in the recent time.The situation, appears to have changed as the industry stakeholders, particular, shell Petroleum Development Company, SPDC, and the other major oil Companies in Nigerian including other Foreign buyers of Nigerian Crude are no longer Complaining of frequent harassment of their vessels.
Indeed, the NIMASA, records shows that in February , 2021, there was no attack of any Foreign cargo vessel in Nigerian waters. The sea thieves may have seen the NIMASA efforts to contain their activities, as gaining ground that they were forced to go back to the drawing board to restrategise in order to fight back. The fallout was the attack on a cargo vessel in the month of March and two in May, forcing the officers manning the Deep Blue maritime security equipment to redouble their efforts in patrolling the Nigerian waters.
The drop in Pirate activities in the Nigerian waters may have encouraged the NIMASA , CEO , to plead with the Lloyds Insurance and other Foreign International Insurance Companies to stop charging ‘’War Risk Premium on Nigerian bound cargoes’’. He was said to have made it clear to the Companies that Nigerian waters are no longer dangerous as being speculated and therefore should be ‘’declassified as dangerous to reduce the cost of doing business in the country’’.
Although, the Maritime Regulatory agency , Director General had made his position known to the Foreign Insurance Companies to stop their illegal charges on Nigerian bound cargoes but the Companies had remained adamant to his appeal, meaning that they are not ready to bow to such pressure to reduce charges but to improve on it. But Jamoh has continued the sensitization Campaign to force the the Foreign Insurance Companies to reduce the Insurance Premium on Nigerian bound cargoes.