Nigeria is set to fully harness its maritime potential to boost the economy through security mercenaries and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Nigerian territorial waters have been described as the most volatile in the Gulf of Guinea, accounting for almost half of the 38 piracy incidences reported in the first quarter of 2021. These pirates had often kidnapped crews for ransom in the region.
Countries around the Gulf of Guinea include, Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Togo, Sao Tome and Principe, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea and Angola.
Nigeria took up the challenge, as President Muhammadu Buahari, yesterday, unveiled a $195 million maritime security architecture under the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, otherwise called the Deep Blue project.
The move was to curtail rising cases of kidnapping, oil theft, illegal bunkering, smuggling and illegal trafficking in drugs and persons in the Gulf of Guinea, especially Nigeria.
President Buhari said the facilities comprise two special mission vessels, three special mission helicopters, 16 armoured vehicles, two special mission aircrafts, 17 interceptor boats, four unmanned aerial vehicles, C4i operation centre, special forces/MSUs, and 600 trained personnel.
He explained that the project was aimed at ensuring greater enforcement of security in the Nigerian waters, coming at a critical time when global attention was on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
He also pointed out that maritime activities account for about 80 per cent of trade in the economy adding that this intervention will facilitate a friendly environment for maritime to take its rightful place in Federal Government’s diversification agenda.
The president, who assured of sustainability of the project, urged the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) and its member states to support and ensure safety of seafarers.
Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said the project was a dream come true, because he faced several oppositions in the process of actualising it, including some lites in the system, who he alleged, have been making money from the insecurity menace.
Amaechi said the facilities comprised marine assets, aerial assets, land assets and the Command Control Computer Communication intelligence (C4i).
He said they were procured at a huge cost and that they are sensitive assets, which must be properly serviced and maintained at all times, just as Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh, described the project as “a mission accomplished.”
He said the project was initiated to ensure safer waterways so that businesses could thrive and ultimately boost the national economy.
While commending President Buhari for signing the anti-piracy bill into law, he said it had convicted about 10 offenders under the law.