From left: Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside; Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi; Director, Maritime Safety, Federal Ministry of Transport, Mr. Paul Adalikwu; and the Managing Director of Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman during a Press Conference on the progress of the DEEP BLUE PROJECT held in Lagos, Monday, February 3, 2020.

Francis Ezem

The Federal Government has finally cancelled the Secure Anchorage Area SAA project contracted to Ocean Marine Services Limited OMSL by the Nigerian Navy about six weeks after the Senate, Nigeria’s upper legislative chambers gave its approval to the project, development that has laid to rest all the controversies associated with the contract, severally described as a scam.

Under the contract on which OMSL claimed to have invested over $400million, the company would provide security within the Lagos Pilotage District, covering Lagos Ports Complex and Tin Can Island Ports Complex for all vessels that call at the nation’s seaports to avoid being attacked while at anchorage for which they pay some stipulated fees.

The Government has also assured that it is working assiduously on its Deep Blue Project, under which it produced new maritime security architecture with a view to addressing the increasing security challenges in the maritime industry, insisting that the security threats were not beyond what the government cannot handle.

Minister of Transport, Rt. Hon. Rotimi Amaechi, who spoke in Lagos Monday shortly after a meeting with stakeholders on the new security architecture approved by both President Muhammadu Buhari and the Federal Executive Council FEC, under the ministry’s Blue Sea project in conjunction with the Navy, said that the meeting had become necessary and expedient to re-assure the shipping community in the country that the government was on top of the matter.

The minster, who admitted that there has been an upsurge in the level of insecurity on the nation’s waterways, which had also become a bit alarming, however noted that there was need to meet with the shipping community so that they do not take decisions that would hurt trade and other investments in the maritime industry in the country.

He assured that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA is currently working in tandem with the Nigerian Navy and that within the next six months issues relating to insecurity on Nigeria’s waterways would have been stamped out completely or reduced to the barest minimum.

“Some of you will recall that in 2016 or 2017, we secured an approval from the President and Cabinet to produce a maritime security architecture under the Deep Blue Project Initiative, which is coming to fruition now as we are about to launch the project. We are not giving out our waterways to Istrealis to man under the project, they are rather providing maritime assets and training to the Nigerian armed forces including the Navy, Army, Air Force, the Police and the Directorate of State Security DSS, who will man the assets and waterways.

“The shipping community was getting a bit worried so we needed to reassure them that the government is fully on top of the matter by telling them how far we have gone in terms of the training and acquisition of the maritime assets”, the Minister also said.

The Director General of NIMASA, while speaking at the event, also reechoed the Minister’s earlier position that there were no plans to hand over Nigeria’s waterways to Israelis to man under the project, saying that no sane government would attempt that.

On the maritime assets, he announced that in addition to receiving the first special mission vessel in December last year, the agency has received six interceptor boats while the second special mission boat is expected to arrive the country before the end of February. The DG also announced that the first special mission aircraft will arrive the country before the end of first quarter of 2020, while six armoured vehicles as well as all communication equipment have also already arrived even as the first unmanned aerial vehicle is expected vehicle is expected to arrive before the end of February 2020.

It was also gathered that while the training of the soldiers has been completed waiting for the armoured personnel carriers to deployed, the C41 command centre is already operational while other trainings are ongoing.

He disclosed that 80 per cent of all the maritime assets would arrive the country before the end of June, 2020.

The Minister had while announcing the cancellation of the SAA contract admitted that it was him, not the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority NPA, Ms. Hadiza Bala Usman, arguing that the government had to cancel the project because it was wrong for a private firm OMSL to provide security for ships that come to the country.

He also announced that the Federal Government has instructed multinational shipping lines to stop any payment of SAA fees, describing the charges as illegal.