By DAPO OLAWUNI
Attacks on vessels at the Lagos anchorage area may now increase dangerously, this is because the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi yesterday officially cancelled the Secured Anchorage Security contract operated by Ocean Marine Solutions Limited (OMSL)
The Minister at a press conference in Lagos yesterday directed that all ships coming into the country must anchor at the national ports under the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Recall that OMSL had in 2014 signed a security contract with Nigerian Navy to enable her improve security and tranquility enjoyed today offshore Lagos harbour approaches, through provision of platforms and logistics support that enabled maintenance of security presence at sea necessary to deter the criminal elements.
But the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) recently came up to condemn the contract, describing it as an illegality, adding that it further adds to the ease of doing business because vessels are required to pay $2000 for security at the anchorage.
Amaechi while speaking yesterday however assured that the Federal Government is set to deploy its integrated maritime security infrastructure to protect the waterd.
He said the government would soon launch the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project.
The Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), while expatiating on the Deep Blue Project, said 80 per cent of the assets required for the takeoff of the total spectrum maritime security architecture would be deployed by June.
Amaechi, who briefed the media after a high level security meeting with maritime stakeholders, restated the President Muhammadu Buhari government’s determination to tackle maritime insecurity head-on. He assured that the Deep Blue Project, when fully operational, would drastically reduce piracy and other crimes within Nigeria’s maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea.
The Minister stated, “Recall that we secured an approval from the Federal Executive Council to introduce a maritime security architecture, which is coming to fruition. We engaged the Homeland Security International (HLSI), who are only to provide training and equipment, while the Nigerian Navy would lead the Police, Nigerian Army and Department of State Services, among others that would run the equipment.”
He stated that the security of the maritime sector needs a more holistic approach, hence the need to involve other arms of the country’s security services to support the Nigerian Navy working with NIMASA.
Giving a breakdown of the assets being installed under the Deep Blue Project, Dakuku revealed that a good number of the assets had arrived the country, including six interceptor boats and a special mission vessel, saying a second one will come in before the end of February.
The Director-General also disclosed that the first special mission aircraft will be in the country before the end of the first quarter of the year, while six armoured aircraft were already in the country, and the first unmanned aerial vehicle would come in before the end of February.
Dakuku stated, “We expect the first helicopter in the first quarter of this year. Almost all the communication gadgets are in the country as well as the Personal Protective Gear (PPG). The C4i centre is fully operational in Kirikiri, the NIMASA Research Centre. Those are the assets we have on ground.
“However, between now and June this year, over 80 per cent of the assets would be in the country and they would be manned by Nigerian military.”
Dakuku stated that the training aspect of the project had since commenced in phases. He said the first set of training for C4i operators and intelligence officers had been concluded. Basic infantry training for soldiers who would fight on land around the littoral areas has also been concluded and the soldiers awaiting deployment, according to him.
“These trainings would continue over time as we try to integrate the intelligence officers with the C4i and those operating the special mission vessels and aircraft,” Dakuku said.