From left: Director, Embassy of Belgium, Stef Commers,  DG NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh; Ambassador Designate of Belgium, His Excellency, Daniel Bertrand; and Executive Director, Operations, NIMASA, Shehu Ahmed, during a courtesy call on the Director-General by the Ambassador at the agency’s headquarters in Lagos, recently.

Federal Government’s efforts at checkmating all forms of maritime insecurity, especially piracy, oil theft, kidnapping for ransom and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea in order to boost trade received a major boost as South Korea and Belgium pledge to support the efforts.

Recall that Nigeria had enacted the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences SPOMO Act 2019, the first stand alone Anti-Piracy law in the West and Central African sub region under which over 10 piracy suspects are being prosecuted as part of measures to end the menace, not only in the country but also within the Gulf of Guinea.

New Consul-General of the Korean Embassy, His Excellency, Kang Haenggu, and Ambassador Designate of Belgium, His Excellency, Daniel Bertrand, who acknowledged the security challenge in the Gulf of Guinea, promised to support Nigeria’s efforts to improve security and trade in the region.

Speaking when they paid separate courtesy visits on the Director-General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh at the agency’s headquarters in Lagos, the two envoys therefore pledged more support for the agency in its drive to enhance trade and security not only in the country but also across the Gulf of Guinea.

Addressing the South Korean and Belgian delegations at separate meetings, Dr. Jamoh said the Nigerian government placed high premium on safety and security of shipping in its waters and the Gulf of Guinea, and had invested heavily in maritime security infrastructure.

Dr. Jamoh expressed NIMASA’s determination to curb criminal activities in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

“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 more than 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), was commissioned in August last year.  The Centre is up and running with round-the-clock production of needed maritime domain awareness. The C4i has helped to identify and monitor activities in the black spots, leading to arrests of many suspects in recent times”, the DG said.

Dr. Jamoh, a graduate of the Korea Maritime and Ocean University, said the training of personnel for the Deep Blue Project had commenced and would be concluded this month, ahead of the deployment of the assets by December.   

It was gathered that Somali pirates were now active on Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea. The DG said the pirates often navigate through Nigeria’s maritime boundaries, and sometimes came through the land borders.

He stated that the Maritime Intelligence Unit, recently established by NIMASA to help nip maritime crimes in the bud through identification of early warning signs, had revealed a relationship between crimes in the Nigerian maritime domain and the Somali pirates.

“We discovered a correlation between crimes in our waters and the activities of the Somali pirates,” he stated, adding, “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.” 

He said Nigeria had developed an action plan to monitor the progress of its National Maritime Security Strategy, saying, “Our goal is to achieve a sustainable end to criminal attacks in our territorial waters.”

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.

Haenggu and Bertrand, in their separate submissions, pledged their determination to improve ties between their respective countries and Nigeria in shipping development and maritime security. Haenggu hailed the “strong working relationship” between the Korean Embassy and NIMASA, saying he looks forward to continuing it.

Bertrand also said that his priority was to promote commerce between his country not only with Nigeria but also across the region..