Even as incidences of pirate attacks on Nigeria waters have continued to increase, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Amaechi on Monday announced that the Federal Government has awarded a maritime security contract valued at $195 million to an Israeli firm to procure security equipment and assist in training Nigerian security personnel tackle crime along the nation's waterways.
The minister disclosed this at the 2017 World Maritime Day celebration in Lagos. The Minister said the contract which will commence in December this year will last for a period of three years after which the Israeli contractors would handover to Nigerian security personnel.
He said the agreement became imperative given the high charges shipping firms pay for security escort on Nigerian waterways.
According to him, due to insecurity on the nation’s waterways, the maritime sector spends $18million on a yearly basis in addition to high war risk insurance payable by shippers to do business on our waters.
“One of the burning issues in the maritime sector is security. The Federal Government has contacted an Israeli firm who is going to train our security men. They will buy equipments and dominate Nigeria’s waterways for the next three years.
“Within those three years, the Israeli firm will train our security operatives for them to take over after the expiration of the contract. They are yet to launch because they are still buying the equipments. When you see the equipments on the waterways, people will know they are safe and secured.
“Mr President has kindly approved that, and that is being done through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). In the three years, they will train our Navy, our Army and our Police so that we can stop spending money escorting boats and vessels on our waterways.
“Currently, Maersk told me they spend between $15m and $18m annually to those escorting their vessels from one point to another on our waterways. We should be able to deflate that by next year so that people can do their businesses on our waterways without any fear of being attacked or harassed.
“The Israelis has assured us that after the training of our security operatives, such harassment and attacks on our waterways will not happen again. They even said we should hold them accountable if such harassment persists on our waterways after the training. That is one achievement that has happened under our leadership in the maritime sector, he said. On the federal government’s effort to commence movement of cargoes by rail, Amaechi said the government will acquire six locomotives and 100 wagons before the end of December. “By December, our narrow gauge will begin to work. We will insist that everybody must put their cargoes on the train. By December, we are bringing in about 100 wagons. “We are launching six locomotives before December. Initially, General Electric said they will pick the cargoes from the ports to Ebute-Metta, but I told them that such movement of cargoes to Ebute-Metta will not work.
“By next week, I will inform General Electric that all cargoes would be moved from the ports, straight to Papalanto in Ogun State. This will start before the end of December. We are doing that with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) and the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC).
On his part, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dakuku Peterside said while the sector has made considerable progress, some reforms are still ongoing to ensure Nigeria maximize the benefits of the blue economy.
He said efforts are ongoing to set up the national fleet which he said will be driven by the private sector.
“We have taken the first step of trying to do the feasibility study and try to get a core investor and invite Nigerian investors to set up a national fleet. The advantage it will offer us is that it will create employment for people, wealth and opportunity for training our cadets.
“Nigeria is beginning to reposition herself, if we don’t understand where we were coming from; you will not appreciate the level of progress we have made. The time was when we had ocean going vessels. What happen to them? They were run by government and today all of them have gone down.
“That experience is not only peculiar to Nigeria but to other African countries, all of them went down because of poor management and the fact that government is not the best business man,” he said.