The Honourable Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi (middle), his is flanked by the Acting Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Mohammed Bello Koko (right) and the Executive Director, Marine & Operations, NPA, Hon. Onari Brown (left) during the launch of the Deep Blue Project at the Lagos Ports Complex, Apapa, Lagos on Thursday By Our Correspondent
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Nigeria now appears to be more prepared or reset in the war against piracy and other related maritime crimes on the nation’s territorial waters and the Gulf of Guinea (GoG) with the launch on Thursday of the Deep Blue project by President Muhammadu Buhari in Lagos.
The project aims at addressing decades of piracy and other maritime crimes for which Nigeria has been given a bad name in what also led to her shippers being surcharged by multinational shipping lines bringing goods to the country.
Buhari who launched the project expressed optimism that this will address maritime crimes, including kidnap for ransom by pirates.
The project which is handled by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) aims to address security issues from all sides, including land, sea and air.
It is also coming after President Buhari signed the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences SPOMO Bill 2019 into law two years ago targeted at checking piracy in Nigeria and GoG.
Buhari during the launch recalled that over the years Nigeria had made spirited efforts to make her territorial waters safe.
He disclosed that the country has secured 10 convictions under SPOMO Act signed into law in July 2019.
He said that with the launch of the deep blue project, all forms of maritime crime will be taken care of.
He also said the issue of piracy in the West Africn sub-region requires synergy among nations of GoG to safeguard the waterways.
Buhari said, ‘‘I am confident that the project, which provides a 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.
‘‘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. .
‘‘With shipping accounting for over 80per cent of transport requirements of the global economy, concerted efforts and innovative actions are required to address attendant security challenges.
‘‘Therefore, the flag-off of the 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 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.’’
Buhari was full of commendation for the Minister of Transport, Hon Rotimi Amaechi, his counterpart in Defence, the Chief of Naval Staff and Director-General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, among others for making the launch of the project a reality.
He assured that the government will continue to sustain the project and called on the stakeholders to be part of the efforts make the project work.
During the launch, the assets for the deep blue project were identitfied as two Special Mission Aircrafts for surveillance of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone EEZ, three Special Mission Helicopters for search and rescue; and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
The sea assets include two Special Mission Vessels and 17 Fast Interceptor Boats.
Other infrastructure include the Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection for land operations; 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol; and about 600 specially trained troops for interdiction, known as Maritime Security Unit.
Two vessels for the operation were named as Deep Blue Abuja (DB-Abuja) and Deep Blue Lagos (DB-Lagos).