Even though the controversial $195 million maritime security contract awarded by the Federal Government to an Israeli firm, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited is yet to yield any physical results, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) has announced that it has graduated 298 surveillance officers in basic training course for the implementation of the contract.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony held at the military base in Elele in Rivers State, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside noted that the capacity development component of the Deep Blue project is on course as the Agency prepares to receive the land and maritime infrastructure component of the Project.
Stakeholders in Nigerian maritime sector have continued to criticize the controversial security contract which was signed by the government at the instance of former minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi.
Operators including shipowners and seafarers complained that almost two years after the contract was entered into, it is yet to actualize results while attacks on ships and kidnapping for ransome by pirates continued.
But the NIMASA DG who spoke at the ceremony has assured that the land based intervention force is expected to work closely with the command and control center to effectively police the Nigerian maritime domain, thus enhancing security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Peterside was represented by the Executive Director, Maritime Labour and Cabotage Services of the Agency, Mr. Gambo Ahmed.
“Our vision of creating the critical force for intervention which is expected to work closely with the command and control center to effectively police the Nigerian Maritime Domain is becoming a reality as they will bring to bear what they have learnt here,” the DG said.
The DG used the opportunity to assure Nigerians that the project jointly implemented by the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Defence will greatly curb criminality in the Nigerian maritime domain.
In his words “the present threats posed by insecurity to our maritime economy and the need to support economic renaissance of the nation led to the bi-ministerial collaboration of the Federal Ministries of Defence and Transportation under the supervision of the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President to develop a robust maritime security architecture comprising all Military and Security Services that would ensure conducive and enduring maritime environment for the nation”.
In his speech during the ceremony, Mr. Micky Gnash of Homeland Security International (HLSI) who are consultants to the project gave the composition of the graduands as 110 officers and men of the Nigerian Army and 198 officers and men of the Nigerian Navy.
“They were trained on combat related courses, ranging from physical training, sharp shooting techniques and ability to use the arm from a range, bare hands fighting in open terrain, built up areas and in the bush”.
He also added that the training was tailored towards empowering them for the enormous task of safeguarding the Nigerian territorial water ways”.
With this basic training concluded, the officers will proceed on the advance training in September, 2019, which is expected to last for 8 months.
Present at the event were; Commander 16 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Brigadier General V. Okoro who represented the Chief of Army Staff and Commander, Pathfinder Base of the Nigerian Navy, Commodore S.J Bura who represented the Chief of the Naval staff and the Maritime Guard Commander, NIMASA, Commodore Ibok.
The C4I Integrated Surveillance Systems Operation training is part of the human capacity building towards the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, which is a Federal Government initiative aimed at ensuring comprehensive Nigerian maritime domain surveillance and security.