$195m contract: FG gives Jan. 2020 deadline to end maritime insecurity …Begins deployment of security assets June
BY OUR REPORTERS
The Federal Government has said it would stamp out all forms of insecurity such as piracy, sea robbery, kidnapping for ransom and oil theft, among others within the nation’s maritime domain by January 2020, as it begins a phased implementation of its new maritime security architecture.
Recall that the Federal Executive Council FEC, the country’s highest policy decision making body had last year approved a $195 million maritime security contract with an Israeli firm, HLS International Limited. The contract was in line with efforts to curb increasing criminal activities such as piracy, sea robbery, kidnapping, oil theft, illegal bunkering, smuggling and illegal trafficking in drugs and persons within the Gulf of Guinea, especially Nigeria.
Outgoing Minister of Transport, Rotimi Amaechi, who addressed some stakeholders in Lagos Tuesday in what appeared a valedictory session, admitted that the state of insecurity in the nation’s maritime industry has worsened in the last few months but assured that it will be a thing of the past between now and January 2020.
According to him, the government is acquiring some maritime security assets comprising two helicopters, three vessels, which look like warships but are not, 19 fast speed interceptors, which have the capacity and capability of going into the creeks, given their shallow nature and some other assets that would boost the new anti-crime operations on the nation’s waters.
He noted that some of the listed assets have already arrived the country and would be deployed in June, 2019 while some others are being expected after their construction, since the assets are not equipment that can be purchased off the shelf rather orders are placed according to specifications and delivered on agreed time schedule.
The Minister also assured that between June 2019 and January 2020 when the full deployment of all the security assets and the nation’s Sea Force led by the Nigerian Navy is constituted and operational, all forms of criminality in the nation’s maritime environment would have completely been eliminated.
He therefore assured that the nation’s maritime stakeholders and indeed the international community should hold the Federal Government accountable for any form of insecurity on the nation’s waters after January 2020 when the new security system would have been fully operational.
“We are aware that the situation is very bad now in terms of insecurity on the nation’s waters. The Federal Government is very much aware and what we have done today is to apologise to the stakeholders and tell them that the equipment we need to fight this insecurity are not the kind you buy off the shelf.
“We are acquiring two helicopters, three ships, 19 interceptors that have the capability to go to the delta and have the capacity to go to the creeks because the problem we had with the older vessels was that they could not access the creeks because of its shallow draft but these new ones can go to the delta. These security assets cannot be bought off the shelf but we will begin deployment in June.
“I cannot say what the impact would be now but I know it would stop these criminals from turning our waters to a theatre of war. Between June 2019 and January 2020 when we would have fully deployed all the security assets, hold us responsible for any criminal activity that takes place because by then we would have formed the Sea Force led by the Nigerian Navy”, the Minister had assured.
It was gathered that in addition of the officers and men of the Nigerian Navy, other members of the Sea Force, which will jointly man the vessels include the Nigerian Army, Directorate of State Security Service DSS, the Nigeria Police and operatives of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA.