By Dr. Bashir Jamoh
Over the years, Nigeria has undertaken several interventions to exploit her huge maritime endowments and opportunities with the increasing cases of maritime crimes, crude oil theft and illegal bunkering in the Niger-Delta and the Gulf of Guinea. These are:
The 1994 Liberian Wartime Deployment Era and the attendant obsolescence of Nigeria’s maritime security equipment.
The 1999 Obasanjo era and the establishment of Presidential Committee on Maritime Safety & Security (PICOMMSS) and the procurement of land, water and air maritime security hardware worth over £200M.
The Dismantling of PICOMMSS arrangement and frittering of all related assets due to lack of continuity and corruption in 2011 and its replacement with the PPP arrangement for Maritime Security with Global West that linked revenue generation to maritime security.
The Introduction in 2017 and launch by Mr. President of Deep Blue Project in 2021 and the current rehabilitation initiatives and coalition drive. The recently released IMB 2021 Q2 Report of a 27-year, all-time time drop in piracy and sea criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea is proof that the Deep Blue project is proving to be a ‘game changer’ in the annals of the nation’s maritime security.
SELECTED NIMASA COLLABORATIVE EFFORTS TOWARDS IMPROVEMENT OF MARITIME SECURITY IN NIGERIA
• Assessment of the SPOMO Act.
When His Excellency, Mr President, Muhammadu Buhari signed the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences Act into law in 2019, it signalled a bold intent by Nigeria to draw the line and announce to the world that piracy will no longer be treated with kid’s gloves by Nigeria as the nation became the first in Africa to enact such legislation. By its design, the SPOMO Act commands collaboration amongst very critical state actors from NIMASA to the Navy to the Police and ultimately to the Judiciary. No party can act without the other – where one party’s role ends, the role of the other begins. The genius of the Act lies in the fact that it is a value chain for dispensing justice to both the perpetrators of piracy and their victims. Little wonder that within such a short period from its passage and enactment, the SPOMO Act proved invaluable in the successful prosecution and conviction of 17 persons arrested form piracy and sea criminalities. To give further strength to the collaborative value embedded in the Act, NIMASA has established the Annual Admiralty Colloquium for the regular training of Judges in maritime-related matters for effective jurisprudence. The first edition held in April 2021 in Lagos attracting the attendance in person of Hon Justice Monica Dongban-Mensem, the President of the Court of Appeal.
• The DEEP BLUE Project – A Practical step towards effective utilization of Maritime Domain Awareness assets in the fight against piracy.
The Deep Blue Project is NIMASA’s multi-agency integrated approach for the containment of maritime crimes in Nigeria to guarantee an enabling environment for maritime business and consequent national development. It entails the deployment of maritime interdiction platforms involving air, land and maritime assets, establishment of command and control centre and capacity building for the diverse personnel in the Project. Just very recently, the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria launched the Project which has in its kitty two Special Mission Vessels, Seventeen Fast Interceptor Boats, three Special Mission Helicopters, two Special Mission Aircraft, four Unmanned Air Vehicles, and sixteen Armoured Vehicles, a command and control Centre (C4I) and Special Maritime Security Unit Team of 340 men.
• Imperatives of Community Engagement in Combating Piracy in Nigeria’s Maritime Domain.
Criminality commences from a community. NIMASA through its carrot and stick strategy has deployed a strategy of engagement with the coastal communities through its littoral states outreach programme. Having engaged with the governors of five of the littoral states – from Bayelsa to Delta to Rivers to Ondo to Lagos, our joint working sessions involving NIMASA and select teams from the states have begun addressing challenges peculiar to specific coastal communities. NIMASA’s Science and Technical College at Okoloba in Delta state is current undergoing redesign to be launched as the NIMASA Centre for Entrepreneurship (NICE) to train youths from various Niger-Delta communities on boat and small craft building; ship recycling business; marine litter marshals; the award of scholarships to over 2,500 youths through the NIMASA National Seafarers Development Programme (NSDP) amongst several initiatives simultaneously being implemented.
• Furthermore, the synergy and strengthening of the Navies of the GoG Region as well as the establishment of regional frameworks for collaboration are proving to be sure ways to drastically mitigate diverse maritime crimes in the Region. The successful formation in April 2021 of and plenary meeting in July 2021 of the Shared Awareness and De-confliction Gulf of Guinea Forum aka SHADE-GoG Forum to galvanize information-sharing and navies working with industry within the Gulf of Guinea has strengthened regional capacity to fight piracy.
Other Effective strategies for combating piracy from the backwaters/ land.
• Maritime Intelligence Imperative – Key Lesson from 9-11 Terrorist Attack on America – The 9-11 Commission found out in summary that American security agencies knew in advance that Osama Bin Ladin was planning a big attack but because there were so many security agencies (The FBI, CIA, Military Intelligence, Transport and Civil Aviation agencies, etc.) working in silos for their own individual achievements, hence there was no coordinated intelligence sharing. Although there was huge intelligence gathering by all of them as individual agencies, they did not ‘share their toys’ with each other, hence the nation as a whole was unable to connect the dots in good time to prevent the terrorist attacks.
• Increased Teamwork and Collaboration: NIMASA has been instrumental in increased collaboration and information sharing between critical maritime stakeholders such as CEOs of Maritime Industry Organizations, Joint Maritime Industry Working Group (JMIWG), etc. to ensure that the busy shipping routes through the GoG operate securely.
• Additionally, the proactive and collaborative visits/engagements with critical maritime agencies in Nigeria including but not limited to the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Airforce, the Nigerian Police Force, the Nigerian Customs Service, the Nigerian Immigration Service, etc; implementation of best management practices by majority of industry commercial ship owners (formulated by IMO Consultants); the establishment of the Maritime Intelligence Unit; the proposed National Maritime Security Strategy Document and the proposed Maritime Security Committee among others.
**Culled from Dr. Bashir Jamoh paper titled “Enhancing Collaboration Amongst Maritime Stakeholders for Improved Maritime Security in Nigeria”
The paper was delivered at the Chief of the Naval Staff Annual Conference (CONSAC) held at the Coronation Hall of the Kano State Government House between 2nd to 4th September 2021.
Dr Jamoh is the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)