Buhari launches Nigeria’s $195m maritime security architecture

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….As Jahmo wants an end to war risk insurance on Nigerian shippers
….World is watching Nigeria, says Kitack

President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that his administration is improving maritime security in the nation’s territorial waters and Gulf of Guinea to strengthen the national economy

Buhari said this yesterday in Lagos when he flagged off maritime security assets procured by the Nigeria Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) under the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure popularly known as the Deep Blue Project.

Buhari, who also called on member states of the Gulf of Guinea region and other private sector stakeholders to join hands in the fight against maritime crimes, expressed confidence that the project will provide robust maritime security architecture for the country.

He said: “This project has been initiated to bolster the maritime security architecture and ensure greater enforcement action within Nigerian waters and beyond.

“This assemblage of new maritime security assets is coming at a critical time when global discussions are centered on piracy activities and the new dimension it has taken in the Gulf of Guinea region.

“With the world’s waters accounting for over 80 per cent of transportation requirements of the global economy, concerted efforts and innovative actions are required to address attendant security challenges.

“Therefore, the flag-off of the Deep Blue Project marks an important milestone in this regard and in our collective effort to tackle security challenges in the form of piracy and other maritime crimes in Nigeria and the Gulf of Guinea. It is also a demonstration of the government’s strong commitment to ensuring security.

“This intervention, no doubt, will facilitate a conducive environment for the maritime sector to thrive and contribute to the diversification of the Nigerian economy.

“The Deep Blue project is a critical step towards the realization of maritime security in the region, which underscores Nigeria’s commitment in providing the necessary framework and resources in cooperation with other nations and maritime users.

“This is evident in the recently established Gulf of Guinea Maritime Collaboration Framework by Nigeria and the Inter-regional Coordination Centre Yaoundé through the facilitation of NIMASA/Industry Joint Working Group to tackle maritime security in the region.

“This forum is to help galvanize regional and international efforts to ensure security in the Gulf of Guinea. Its main focus is counter piracy and armed robbery prevention by bringing together regional, international, industry and NGO partners to advance and coordinate near-term maritime activities, with a view to working towards a set of common operational objectives off the coast of west and central Africa.

“I am confident that the project, which provides robust maritime security architecture, will enhance maritime domain awareness capability and improve law enforcement action, particularly in the prosecution of suspects under the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act which I signed into law in June 2019.

“In this regard, I have been informed that since the coming into force of the law, ten convictions have been secured for various offences under the Act.

“This Flag-off is an important step in the continuing shift in strategic action about regional maritime security. It will serve as a benchmark for member states in the Gulf of Guinea and other relevant stakeholders to further develop innovative strategies and align efforts with the subsisting framework to improve maritime security in the region,” President Buhari said.

Secretary General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim, in a message said the “world is watching as Nigeria takes this concrete step to tackle piracy and all forms of criminalities not only in your nation’s territorial waters but in the enter Gulf of Guinea. It is expected that sea navigation will grow and trade will grow,” he said.

Also speaking at the event, Transportation Minister, Rotimi Amaechi described the project as an initiative from his office which he conceptualised and pursued to fruition.

Amaechi said as a former governor in the South South region, he knew the level of insecurity and killings going on in our waters and has been passionate about addressing them since he became minister in charge of the sector.

The Minister described the project as a laudable one that has suffered a lot of resistance from some persons in and out of governments with vested interests.

Amaechi added that some unpatriotic businesspeople operating in the country’s maritime domain never wanted the nation’s waters to be secured.

According to him, Nigeria’s poor rating from number three on the list of countries with unsafe waters to number one would be changed for the better with the deployment of the assets.

Amaechi said the contract for the project which was signed in his office with an Israeli company on 27 July 2017 covers Marine Assets, Land Assets, Aerial assets and a command control and coordination centre otherwise called C4i.

The deep blue project, according to Amaechi covers Nigeria’s Exclusuve Economic Zone and beyond and would cause a reduction in unnecessary security cost by ships on Nigeria waters who hitherto paid for the now scrapped Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) and additional cost like a war prone area.

Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh assured the global maritime community at the event that seafarers safety is now more guaranteed in the country’s waters with the deployment of the assets.

He said: “The project we have come here to officially launch is the final stage of our strategy for combating the menace of piracy and sea robbery in not just our waters but also the Gulf of Guinea. Deep Blue comprises of two Special Mission Vessels, three Special Mission Helicopters, four Unmanned Air Vehicles/ Drones, 16 Fast Moving Interceptor Boats, 17 Armoured Vehicles, Over 300 Specially Trained Personnel for the Maritime Security Unit and the C4i Centre. All signed, sealed and delivered.”

He noted that since the deployment of the deep blue projects assets in February, there had been a steady decline in piracy attacks in the Nigerian waters on a monthly basis. “We therefore invite the international shipping community to rethink the issue of war risk insurance on cargo bound for our ports – Nigeria has demonstrated enough commitment towards tackling maritime insecurity to avert such premium burden,” he said.

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