Appraising the nation’s maritime security and matters arising

There are clear indications that the favourable appraisal that Nigeria enjoyed from the global piracy monitoring body; the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in its first quarter 2019 may be eroded unless the Federal Government reappraises is maritime security architecture.

 Even though the IMB had given the nation a positive report in is January to March report, even before he report was made public, daredevil pirates have started unleashing mayhem on ships either offshore, at anchorage or at berth.

We recall that the IMB had in April, released its first quarter 2019 report in which it reported that, Nigeria reported 14 incidents of piracy between January and March, 2019, in comparison to 22 incidents during the corresponding period in 2018.

It is instructive that, even though Nigeria recorded 14 incidences January to March, she still topped the table among five countries that accounted for 71 percent of the global attacks or 38 incidences. Nigeria was followed by Venezuela (with a distant 4 attacks) and China, Ghana and Indonesia which had three attacks each.

Incredibly, there has been an upsurge in attacks (about six) since the beginning of April, and also in the month of May, raising fears that the appraisal for the second quarter of 2019 may not be as favourable as he first quarter.

However, the IMB, in the Q1 2019 report also acknowledged the involvement of the Nigerian Navy in efforts to repel and respond to incidences.

Perhaps, what the IMB subtly inferred in making reference to the Nigerian Navy is that were it not because of the involvement of the Navy, the story would have been different.

Before the Navy got directly involved in the anti-piracy ‘war’, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had engaged a  private firm; Messrs Global West Vessel Specialist

The Federal Government engaged Global West Vessel Specialist Limited in   a contract worth $103.4 million (over N15 billion) to supply 20 vessels for the use of the nation’s military authorities to secure the waterways.

In fairness to the promoters of the contract, it greatly assisted in the fight against piracy. There was a significant reduction in attacks during the years that Global West took charge of maritime security within the nation’s domain.

There was   drop in piracy attacks apparently while the Global West contract   because   the firm engaged many ex-militants, and   trained them   to be professional.

At the exit of Messrs Global West Vessel Specialists, another firm; HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited was engaged at a whopping US $195 million.

Justifying the contract, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, said that the Federal Government awarded a controversial maritime security contract worth $195 million to the unknown Israeli company, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies, because of its desire to tame criminality on the nation’s waterways.

But, in May 2017, public pressure had obligated President Muhammadu Buhari to announce the complete annulment of the deal, and the initiation of an investigation led by the NSA and the NIA. Three months later the contract was reinstated. The Director-General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, explained that the contract was initially stalled as a result of investigation on the status of the firm. According to Peterside, the firm had since been given clean bill of health to proceed with the contract after the conclusion of the investigation.

Within the three years that the contract would last, the Israeli firm will train Nigeria’s security operatives to take over after the expiration of the contract. 

Apparently satisfied, Amaechi further boasted that, ‘’they are yet to launch because they are still buying the equipment. When you see the equipment on the waterways, people will know they are safe and secured’’.

Currently, there is an existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy. The essence of the MoU is maritime domain security.

The years of back and forth movement over maritime security contract justifies our longstanding position that Nigeria needs a stand-alone agency to tackle maritime and related crimes. The answer is in the creation of Coast Guard. 

But speaking during an interactive session with journalists, Amaechi said the Israeli company will train Nigerian security personnel on how to man the waterways.

“Currently, there are criminal activities in our waterways which has made people in some parts of the country charge what they call war insurance. War insurance means that you go to an area where there is war, but you know that there is no war there.

“But in such areas criminal activities are taking place in the waterways. So with the approval, after we’ve put the processes in place, we will ensure that there is security on our waters,” he said.