Nigeria’s efforts towards curbing piracy and other maritime crimes on the nation’s territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea region at large further received a major boost as a Special Mission Aircraft was received in Lagos on Wednesday.
This marks the final phase of the delivery and installation of assets under the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project designed to secure Nigerian waters up to the Gulf of Guinea.
Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who received the aircraft in company with Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, and the agency’s Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Mr. Chudi Offodile, said the coutry is now set to zero out maritime crimes in the entire region.
He had earlier inspected three Special Mission Helicopters at the Naval Base, Apapa, under the project billed for launch on May 21.
Addressing journalists at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Murtala Muhammed International Airport, Ikeja, during a brief ceremony to mark the arrival of the aircraft, Jamoh said the assets would further improve security not only on Nigerian waters but also in the Gulf of Guinea region.
It was gathered that there has been a drastic reduction in the rate of attacks in the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ since the deployment of some of the Deep Blue Project assets, even as the agency targets total elimination of such crimes.
The DG said: “There has been a drastic decrease in the rate of security breaches in our waters in recent times. This is a clear indication that we are getting it right with the Deep Blue Project.
“The figures we are getting from the International Maritime Bureau IMB are encouraging. We ultimately aim to completely eradicate security-related hindrances to shipping and business generally in the Nigerian maritime domain.”
IMB, a specialised division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), is the global focal point in the fight against maritime crimes and malpractices. The organisation has in recent months reported a consistent year-on-year drop in the number of attacks on ships in Nigerian waters.
The latest IMB quarterly report of piracy and armed robbery against ships recorded only two incidents in Nigerian waters between January and March this year, compared to 11 attacks within the same period last year.
“These figures are a proof that we can make our waters safe and secure, and we are determined to do so,” Jamoh stated. “Today, we are here to receive the final phase of assets under the Deep Blue Project to further boost our capacity to secure our waters up to the Gulf of Guinea,” he added.
The Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, popularly called the Deep Blue Project, is designed with three categories of platforms to tackle maritime security issues on land, sea, and air.
The land assets comprise the Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection; 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol; and about 600 specially trained troops for interdiction, known as Maritime Security Unit. On air, there are two Special Mission Aircraft for surveillance of the EEZ, one of which was received Wednesday, with the second expected to arrive May 18; three Special Mission Helicopters for search and rescue; and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. The sea assets consist of two Special Mission Vessels and 17 Fast Interceptor Boats.
(Business and Transport)