By DAPO OLAWUNI
Prior to the commissioning of the Deep Blue Project, a maritime security initiative of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in Lagos by President Muhammadu Buhari on 10th of June 2021, there were anxieties about sustainability of the project as the Nigerian Navy were not initially in support.
These fears were coming on the heels of the termination of the multibillion Naira controversial OMSL Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) contract, a baby of the Nigerian Navy.
President Muhammadu Buhari terminated the SAA contract to pave way for the Deep Blue Project initiated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and implemented by NIMASA.
The $195million deep blue assets acquired by the government is to be manned by the Nigerian Navy.
Speaking at a press conference in Lagos recently, Director General of NIMASA, Dr Bashir Jamoh assured that there is no cause for alarm as the Navy and NIMASA are working hand in hand to ensure success and sustainability of the deep blue project.
Dr Jamoh admitted that initially there were apprehensions from the side of the Nigerian Navy, he however said that both agencies are now collaborating towards a common goal of ensuring security on Nigeria waterways.
Initially, there were apprehensions about experienced manpower required to operate the deep blue assets, as many of the naval officials were reportedly not trained on how to operate the sophisticated equipment procured for the project.
Responding to this, the NIMASA DG revealed that, not less that 600 troops have been specially trained for interdiction, known as Maritime Security Unit. They are to operate on the waterways, from land, and from the air.
In addition to 600 trained troops, he said the Deep Blue Project has three categories of platforms to tackle maritime security on land, sea, and air.
The land assets include the Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection; 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol.
The sea assets include two Special Mission Vessels and 17 Fast Interceptor Boats. The air assets comprise two Special Mission Aircraft for surveillance of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ); three Special Mission Helicopters for search and rescue operations; and four Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
Dr Jamoh stated that the deep blue project is a pride to Nigeria in the whole of West and Central Africa.
He said “There is no country with such facilities or platforms, so it is is thing of pride to Nigeria.
We are going to deploy a system that would ensure that nobody can come onboard later to change the existing arrangements”
“We have had these platforms before but they are no more. However this one is going to be different because we have two organisations responsible for these assets”
“In terms of tactical operations, the Nigerian Navy is responsible, but in terms of strategy or logistics, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) is responsible”
“In so doing, NIMASA own the assets, they are in custody of the assets, they are in charge of the assets, they would ensure maintenance and repair of the assets and other consumables”
“At the end of the day, the Nigerian Navy cannot give an excuse that because they do not have money, they could not do it. And for the first time, we are all working in tandem and in corporation, we have brought all the parties together”
“As I am today, I dont see myself different from a naval officer, we have three Commanders, one is in charge of SHADE-GOG, a Rear Admiral.
Secondly, we have a Commander in charge of deep blue project and lastly we have another Commodore that is supporting the Nigeria Joint Industry Working Group where a conglomerate of world shipping trade owners are into; BIMCO, INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO and lots of other multinational groups”
“All these Commanders report to me directly and they have never shown me that I am a civilian and they are military. If they travel outside the country, before they get back home, they would call to notify me that they are back and they needed to brief me”
“They would come with their reports, we discuss it and they would tell me the next line of action.
So, for the first time in Nigeria, we are seeing the corporation between civilian and military in terms of the fight against the menace of piracy on our waters. The monster may think that we are divided”
“At the initial stage there were apprehensions, but at the end of the day, we are united as one, and we are going to fight against the monster called maritime insecurity” Dr Jamoh assured.