From Anthony Nwachukwu, Lagos
The Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has disclosed that Somali pirates were now active in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea (GoG).
Jamoh spoke during a separate courtesy call to the agency in Lagos by the new Consul-General of the Korean Embassy, Kang Haenggu, and Ambassador Designate of Belgium, Daniel Bertrand, in Lagos
He explained that the criminals have been navigating through Nigeria’s maritime boundaries, and sometimes through the land borders, as revealed by the agency’s recently established maritime intelligence unit, which established a relationship between crimes in the nation’s maritime domain and the Somali pirates.
“We discovered a correlation between crimes in our waters and the activities of the Somali pirates,” he said. “They have a means of navigating from the coast of Somalia to Nigeria, through the waters of our West African neighbours. In some cases, they enter through the land borders and commission boats to carry out their activities.”
On its part, Nigeria had developed an action plan to monitor the progress of its National Maritime Security Strategy, “goal is to achieve a sustainable end to criminal attacks in our territorial waters,” he noted.
Therefore, the agency is determined to curb criminalities in the Nigerian waters and the GoG, just as the government has high premium on safety and security of shipping in the respective areas, and has invested heavily in maritime security infrastructure, he noted.
According to Jamoh, to confront the menace head-on, “Nigeria has made huge investments in the establishment of a comprehensive maritime security infrastructure. The Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project, is designed to secure our waters, up to the Gulf of Guinea.
“The project is nearing completion, with over 80 per cent of the assets, comprising Special Mission Vessels, Fast Intervention Boats, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, and Armoured Vehicles already in the country.
“The information and intelligence hub of the Deep Blue Project, the Command, Control, Communication, Computer, and Intelligence Centre (C4i) has helped to identify and monitor activities in the black spots, leading to arrests of many suspects in recent times.”
Stating that personnel training for the Deep Blue Project would be concluded this month, ahead of the deployment of the assets by December Jamoh called for South Korean and Belgian investments in the Nigerian maritime industry, particularly in the areas of wreck removal and shipbuilding, as well as assistance in the training and certification of Nigerian seafarers.
Concerned at security challenge in the GoG, South Korea and Belgium pledged more support for NIMASA in its drive to enhance trade and security in its maritime domain, while stating their determination to improve ties with Nigeria in shipping development and maritime security.
Haenggu commended the “strong working relationship” between the Korean Embassy and NIMASA, saying that he looked forward to continuing it, while Bertrand said his priority was to promote commerce between his country and Nigeria.