BY EGUONO ODJEGBA
President Muhammadu Buhari has said that the launch of the country’s Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure project, otherwise known as The Deep Blue Project (DBP), couldn’t have come at a better time, in view of international maritime community’s concerns about rise in maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea (GOG) and Nigeria’s territorial waters.
He made the disclosure today at the launch of the DBP, saying the initiative will enhance Nigeria’s maritime security architecture and also bolster global maritime economy; further noting that the DBP is a demonstration f Nigeria’s commitment to fostering regional maritime security and cooperation.
This is even as the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh said the DBP is an amalgam of the management’s Triple S-Agenda on Maritime Security, Maritime Safety and Shipping Development; which his administration devoted attention during its first year in office.
The President who expressed delight at personally flagging off the official take-off of the maritime security architecture said, “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.”
“This project has been initiated to bolster the maritime security architecture and ensure greater enforcement action within Nigerian waters and beyond. 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.”
The President urged member states and other stakeholders to join and work collectively in pursuit of the common objective to keep seafarers safe.
He emphasized that “With the world’s waters accounting for over 80% of transportation requirements of the global economy, concerted efforts and innovative actions are required to address attendant security challenges.”
He notes that “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.”
Instructively, President Buhari said “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.”
He further described the initiative as a demonstration of his government’s strong commitment to ensuring security and providing the enabling environment for the growth of the maritime sector and diversification of the economy.
His words: “This intervention, no doubt, will facilitate a conducive environment for the maritime sector to thrive and contribute to the diversification of the Nigerian economy.
Overall, the president said the initiative reechoes Nigeria’s status as a regional power to lead in critical blueprints designed to offer essential relief and buffer anchorage necessary to promote regional economic framework.
“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”.
In his opening address, the DG NIMASA said the agency’s partnership strategy under his watch has encouraged genuine and far reaching collaboration, both locally and internationally in tackling the challenge of maritime insecurity.
According t Jamh, “We are beginning to witness an era of proper coordination, meaningful collaboration and productive cooperation. Today we are working ever more closely with the IMO for purposes of restoring sanity to our seas and there can be no greater proof and encouragement than the evidences of the International Maritime Organization’s Secretary-General’s endorsements of Nigeria’s leadership efforts for curtailing criminality along our coastal corridor.
“On the Home-front, upon assuming office as DG of NIMASA, we immediately established the Maritime Intelligence Unit (MIU) in order to reset our paradigm and approach towards understanding and properly profiling the behavioural patterns of the young people who engage in sea crimes and piracy.
“This became for us a more proactive approach to the problem of maritime insecurity. The success of the Maritime Intelligence Unit also provided us the capacity to intervene using the carrot and stick approach in a meaningful manner to salvage our young people that have been prone to being recruited into piracy along our coastal states.
“Coupled with our littoral states outreach to the state Governors, a new partnership is emerging that will deal with potential piracy issues before they occur.”
Jamoh explained that the need to curtail attacks on shipping activities also made him and his management team to create a window of regular engagement with stakeholders, all of which he said is intended to achieve efficient distress response record time.
“This gave birth to the NIMASA Joint Industry Working Group. The monthly forum of candid interactions with critical stakeholders such as BIMCO, InterCargo, InterTanko among others provided a sounding board for shaping policies that have impacted on maritime security strategies and protection of our seafarers.
“It is worth noting that a major milestone resulting from this partnership with industry is the new Framework for jointly Tackling Maritime Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea signed and co-chaired by the Inter-Regional Coordinating Centre (ICC), Yaoundé and the Nigerian Navy / NIMASA known as GoG-SHADE
“We have also recorded progress on the issue of harmonization of surveillance between NIMASA (C4i), NPA, Nigerian Navy (Falcon Eye) and the Nigerian Police. All of these will complement the DEEP BLUE Assets to ensure that it is fully robust. “
The DG NIMASA informed the president that the launch of the DBP is the outcome of meticulous planning, commitment and focus by all concerned, even as he listed the critical assets that make up this important maritime security architecture.
He said, “Mr. President, The project we have come here to officially launch is the final piece 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 2 Special Mission Vessels, 3 Special Mission Helicopters, 4 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.”
…Commends HMOT, MOD, DG NIMASA, others
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari has specially commended the Honourable Minister of Transportation (HMOT), Rt. Hon. Chibuike Amaechi and his Ministry of Defence (MOD) counterpart, for diligently overseeing the Deep Blue Project (DBP) initiative, from conception to finishing.
Buhari also commended the Chief of Naval Staff, the Director General NIMASA, Members of the Steering Committee and the Project Management Team and all other government stakeholders who have worked together to bring this initiative of the administration to fruition.
“I commend the Honourable Minister of Transportation, Honourable Minister of Defence, the Chief of Naval Staff, the Director General NIMASA, Members of the Steering Committee and the Project Management Team and all other government stakeholders who have worked together to bring this initiative of the administration to fruition”, he said.
“As we begin the operationalization phase of the project, I wish to assure you of government’s commitment to ensure its sustainability and invite all critical stakeholders to work collectively in this direction for the greater benefit of all Nigerians, member states of the Gulf of Guinea and the global maritime community.”
The president noted with joy that NIMASA has recorded successful prosecution of suspects under the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Act which he signed into law in June 2019; and edged the federal government commitment t ensuring the sustenance of DBP initiative.
“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.”