Barring any last minute change, President Muhammadu Buhari is expected in Lagos on Thursday to perform the official launch of the assets under the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also known as the Deep Blue Project.
Preparatory to the launch, the Maritime Security Unit (MSU) of the Deep Blue Project, comprising personnel from the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police, and Department of State Services, are conducting simulation exercises for the event on the land, air, and sea assets of the Project to confirm their readiness for full deployment.
According to a statement issued in Lagos on Friday and signed by Mr Philip Kyanet, Head of Corporate Communications at Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), the various military formations in the region are aware of the exercise of the ongoing simulation exrcise.
“While this exercise is on-going, members of the public, especially those living in coastal communities, are advised to remain calm, as this exercise is only meant to test the readiness of the assets”, the statement assured.
Speaking specifically about the launch of the Deep Blue assets, the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh said: “With the deployment of the assets of the Deep Blue Project, we are entering another level of national security designed for total spectrum maritime security and better domain awareness using some of the latest technology”.
“This effort to secure our waters would give Nigerians more leverage to harness the enormous resources of our maritime environment and aid the drive towards economic diversification.”
The Project, which was initiated by the Federal Ministry of Transportation and Federal Ministry of Defence, is being implemented by NIMASA.
The main objective of the Deep Blue Project is to secure Nigerian waters up to the Gulf of Guinea. The Project has three categories of platforms to tackle maritime security on land, sea, and air.
The land assets that would be deployed include: the Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) for intelligence gathering and data collection; 16 armoured vehicles for coastal patrol; and 600 specially trained troops for interdiction, known as Maritime Security Unit. 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.
The Deep Blue Project is the first integrated maritime security strategy in West and Central Africa with the aim of tackling the incidences of piracy, sea robbery, and other crimes at sea.
While prosecution of suspected criminals used to be a challenge, the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offenses (SPOMO) Act passed by the 9th National Assembly would now provide a legal backing for prosecution and punishment of offenders, NIMASA added.