The Federal Government may have shelved its promise of floating some high-tech machinery meant to combat maritime crime in the nation’s troubled waters. Under the initial target, the facilities were expected to have arrived Nigeria in August, but three months after, the project now appears elusive.
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier this year, approved the sum of $186million (about N56.9billion) to procure machineries to fully combat maritime crimes.
The fund is meant to acquire three helicopters, three aircrafts, three big battle-ready ships, 12 vessels, and 20 amphibious cars to combat the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Minister for Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, who disclosed the plan at an industry forum in Lagos, on May 3rd, had assured, “In the next three months, you will see them operating; and by the time we finish, you will see that the change is coming. Change is not talked about, it is felt, and so you should give us time to fix it.”
Upon inquiry about the update on the facilities, the spokesperson for the Nigerian Navy, Chris Ezekobe, told The Guardian that he is not aware of the plan, adding that the Navy is really in need of more vessels, but coping with the existing ones.
“Although, I am not aware of that promise to acquire those machineries, but in all our presentations to the presidency, we have been asking for additional vessels and our vessels of choice are what we called offshore patrol vessels.
“We have two existing that were bought from China. Those are: NNS Unity, and NNS Centenary. Within the constraints on our resources, we have been making our pitch for additional platforms, which will help us address some of these issues,” he said.
Months after the unveiling of the plan, Nigeria’s marine territory has continued to report many attacks and kidnappings.A recent incident is the report of the kidnap of six crew members, including the captain, from a Liberian-flagged containership ‘Demeter’ offshore Bonny.
However, a new report by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC’s) International Maritime Bureau (IMB), said: “Nigeria remains risky, as there were 20 reports received against all vessel types for Nigeria, 16 of which occurred off the coast of Brass, Bonny, and Bayelsa.
The Director, IMB, Pottengal Mukundan, said: “In general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky, despite intervention in some cases by the Nigerian Navy. We advise vessels to be vigilant.“The number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea could be even higher than our figures, as many incidents continue to be unreported.”
The Commandant, Nigerian Defense College, Abuja, Rear Admiral Adeniyi Adejimi Oshinowo, gave a rough estimate of the institution’s patrol requirements. “They include at least 18 low/medium endurance Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPVs) (<50), and nine helicopters carrying long endurance OPVs (>70), and three Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), which are needed to provide adequate protection of Nigeria’s coastal and deep offshore waterways.“Although the NN strive to maintain such size of fleet, it has been expensive sustaining same at optimum operational level due to limited resources,” he added.
Find out more about ARX Maritime products