BusinessDay

Nigeria’s maritime space, deep blue project and stamping out security challenges

Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa with a GDP of US$443 billion (2020) which is dependent on sustainable, secure, and safe maritime sector transportation.

Working towards a more sustainable, safer, and secured maritime space will complement Nigeria’s efforts towards building a stronger economy. It will address current security challenges and in turn attract more foreign direct investment.

In 2019, the International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) piracy reporting centre reported that attacks in Nigeria’s maritime space mostly takes place at night, whilst vessels were underway 30 nautical miles (nm) to 180 nm offshore.

Vessels targeted range from oil tankers, product tankers, bulk carriers, container ships, and fishing boats to offshore support vessels.

The same report also stated that a handful of the attacks occurred around the Niger Delta, the sea area south of the port and oil terminals of Brass, as well as off Togo, Benin, and Cameroon. Those targets focused on the abduction of seafarers and the theft of cash and personal belongings.

The IMB worldwide in the first quarter of 2019 ranked Nigeria waters as among the world’s most dangerous for merchant shipping – as of the 38 attacks recorded in 2019, 14 were off Nigeria.

It also stated that most likely other incidents in the wider Gulf of Guinea have been the work of pirates based in the Niger Delta of Nigeria – an area that has seen civil unrest for more than a decade. Interestingly the economic cost of piracy to Nigeria reached over US$818.1 million in 2017 and about US$213.7 million was spent in contracting maritime security personnel to protect vessels in the region.

Nigeria’s inflation of 15.97% is triggered as a result of surcharges being passed on to the final consumers of goods and services imported into the country by the shippers as a result of the nation’s spending on law enforcement and naval patrols which increased by $13.2million.

Nigeria’s economy has been leaking over US$2.74 billion in the past four years as a result of insurance surcharges applied on Nigerian shipments directly as a result of the nation’s territorial waters being unsafe for navigation.

The security challenge in Nigeria’s maritime space (which includes illegal unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF), sea robbery, illicit trafficking, narcotics, arms smuggling, and pollution) is a clear and present danger to our economy and therefore we all must support governments effort at putting an immediate stop to it as the multiplier effects are partly responsible for the high unemployment rate, poverty, lack of foreign investment opportunities, etc.

Additionally, it is also important to state that 73 percent of kidnappings at sea and 92 percent of global hostages take place around the Gulf of Guinea.

Recent findings show that Nigeria’s maritime security challenges stem largely from non-military causes to elements such as high corruption rate, insecurity, unemployment, poverty, lack of use of modern technology devices in managing the challenges, inefficiency of the relevant government institution in managing the high rise of security challenges.

However, in 2019, IMB PRC reported “a welcome and marked decrease” in attacks in the Gulf of Guinea for the second quarter of 2019: It commended the Nigerian navy for actively responding to reported incidents by dispatching patrol boats.

IMB PRC also stated 21 incidents were recorded around Nigeria (decreasing from 31 in the same period of 2018 – when Nigeria was ranked as the highest country for reported incidents) out of the 77 reported globally. Although it recognized that many attacks go unreported.

These negative elements have manifested into various attacks both within and outside the maritime space – such as kidnapping, high corruption rates, increased robberies, and sabotage of oil pipelines and infrastructure.

All these security gaps created in the sector as a result of these challenges are partly responsible for the rise in corruption, poverty in the region, youth restiveness in the coastal areas (who are also capitalizing on the challenges as a means of livelihood or as a fightback against resource control and marginalization against the Federal Government of Nigeria). These affect the growth of the transport sector and the economy at large.

In the light of the above, it is important to commend all efforts by the current administration in the conception of the Deep Blue project idea and deployment of huge resources at implementing the project and deploy both military and law enforcement infrastructure at securing our maritime space.

This will be done through a central command and control center based in Lagos and will oversee a network of integrated assets including two special mission vessels, two special mission long-range aircraft, seventeen fast-response vessels capable of speeds of 50 knots, three helicopters, and four airborne drones, providing constant cover for the region. All these will complement the Yaounde ICC structure and also offer the real capability to both Nigeria and the region.

It will also help us address current security challenges in our maritime space which will be managed by Nigeria Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA). It will also help improve security in our maritime environment, attract more investments, create more employment opportunities as well as boosts the growth of our economy.

All things being equal it is optimistic that Nigeria’s Deep Blue project which is being coordinated with the help of the navy and other military platforms through the mechanism of the GOG – Maritime Collaboration Forum/SHADE will also add more value to government efforts at curbing the various challenges caused by pirate groups in Nigeria’s maritime space.

Therefore it makes sense to say, that if Nigeria stamps out this maritime security challenge through the adoption of the necessary policies, modern technology, and infrastructure, as well as hiring the best hands, we can attain roughly three times what we currently realize.

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