Nigeria is to eradicate maritime crimes with the receipt of a special mission aircraft on Wednesday as part of the final phase of the delivery and installation of assets under the Deep Blue Project designed to secure Nigerian waters up to the Gulf of Guinea.
The Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, who received the aircraft in company of other federal government officials, said that the assets, when fully deployed, will secure the sub-region and Gulf of Guinea against piracy, armed robbery at sea, crude oil theft and illegal bunkering, poaching, smuggling, vandalism, kidnapping, proliferation of small arms, illegal waste dumping and oil pollution.
The federal government delegation had earlier inspected three Special Mission Helicopters at the Naval Base, Apapa, Lagos under the project billed for launch on May 21.
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 Economic Exclusive Zone (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.
Dr Jamoh told journalists at the Nigerian Air Force Base, Ikeja, Lagos during a brief ceremony to mark the arrival of the aircraft, that the assets would further improve security in Nigerian waters as there has been drastic reduction in the rate of attacks in the country’s EEZ with the deployment of the Deep Blue Project assets.
According to him, “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 hindrances to shipping and business generally in the Nigerian maritime domain.”
He noted that International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a specialised division of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), which is the global focal point in the fight against maritime crimes and malpractices, 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. 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.”