For several years, the Gulf of Guinea region, which houses Nigeria and other West African countries, was notorious as the world’s piracy hotspot due to incessant attacks on oceangoing vessels, kidnapping of crew members, and hijacking of inbound cargoes.
In 2021, the region for the first time started witnessing a decline in reported cases of pirate attacks, vessel hijacking, and crew kidnapping.
This development was confirmed by the annual piracy report of the ICC International Maritime Bureau (IMB), which states that pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea region decreased from 81 reported incidents in 2020 to 34 in 2021.
This is all thanks to efforts put in place by agencies like the Bashir Jamoh-led Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
Under Jamoh administration, NIMASA has in the last two years, managed to slow the tempo of piracy and other related crimes through different strategic and deliberate efforts.
First, the agency in 2019 got President Muhammadu Buhari to assent to the first standalone anti-piracy law in the Gulf of Guinea Region called the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Offences Bill into law (SPOMO ACT).
With the act, Nigeria was able to secure a premier conviction for some suspected pirates arrested within the nation’s territorial waters by the Nigerian Navy in 2020, thereby serving as a deterrent for other criminals.
In addition to SPOMO Act, the agency also got the Federal Government’s approval to invest heavily into the acquisition of sea and air surveillance patrol assets under the Deep Blue Project to deepen maritime security.
To implement the Deep Blue Project, which was flagged off by President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday, 21st May 2021, NIMASA purchased key assets including two Special Mission Vessels (SMVs), 17 Fast Interceptor Boats (FIBs), two Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs) and 16 Armoured Vehicles.
According to NIMASA Performance report, which describes Bashir Jamoh’s two years in office, some of these assets have been deployed to the Nigerian Navy for operational use.
Aside from Deep Blue, the agency also started the process of upgrading the Regional Maritime Awareness Center (RMAC) in Kirikiri to SEA VISION in order to allow for monitoring of vessels along the West and Central Africa Region.
Currently, NIMASA is engaging international stakeholders, including BIMCO, INTERTANKO, INTERCARGO, International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and Oil Companies International Maritime Forum (OCIMF) under the auspices of NIMASA/Industry Maritime Security Work Group (NIWG) to entrench coordinated response to piracy attacks.
Confirming this, Jamoh said, this approach will ensure prompt reportage and escalation of marine incidences to where the action is most needed and also provide navigational advisory to mariners.
BusinessDay understands that NIMASA is also on the verge of instituting collaboration with other national authorities in Nigeria for improved maritime safety and security, as well as ensuring efficient port operations.
“We are committed to improving strategic collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Airforce, the Nigerian Police, Nigerian Army, and the office of the National Security Adviser. This move will help to sustain the reduction in pirate attacks off the Gulf of Guinea as there was no single attack on Nigerian waters in the third quarter of 2021, as reported by the IMB,” said Jamoh in a recent engagement with media stakeholders.
NIMASA also established the integrated national maritime surveillance and security infrastructure, which enables the country, to deploy satellite surveillance equipment to counter piracy on Nigerian waters.
With the equipment, the country built the capacity to respond to distress calls on Nigerian waters and beyond. It also enables the agency to identify ship positions in real-time which can greatly enhance search and rescue, plot search and rescue patterns, detect vessels that switch off their automatic identification system (AIS), and interrogate the satellite image for information.
To further consolidate on the gains, the agency is also perfecting plans to resuscitate the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) Equipment in Lagos, Bonny, and Oron, as well as radar installation in Escravos Bonny and Takwa Bay in Lagos.
Pundits believed that the upgrading of GMDSS will go a long way to further boost Nigerian domain awareness response capability when fully operational. It will also enable Nigeria to effectively understand the things associated with the maritime domain and how they can impact the security, economy, and environment.
NIMASA has also made a leap with the implementation of the International Ship and Port Facility Security (ISPS) Code, which has steadily impacted the level of security in the nation’s port areas and facilities.
It is on record that the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the global maritime regulatory agency, recently commended the Bashir Jamoh-led NIMASA for its giant stride on fight against piracy.
For instance, in December 2020, IMO applauded NIMASA’s efforts in the fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea Region.
According to a letter by Kitack Lim, the secretary-general of IMO, the specialised UN organ commended Bashir Jamoh, the director-general of the NIMASA for his ‘brave and dynamic’ approach to maritime security.
Lim said he was impressed by Nigeria’s efforts ‘to address maritime security threats in the region,’ adding that Jamoh’s ‘leadership and proactive response’ to maritime security issues, were laudable.
This was in addition to the earlier commendation of NIMASA’s action of declaring seafarers as key workers in order to facilitate crew changes during the COVID-19 induced international lockdown.
Also, the IMO recently gave institutional backing to NIMASA’s Marine Litter Action Plan, thereby showcasing the agency’s collaboration with the IMO.
To continue to lead the NIMASA vis-à-vis the Nigerian maritime industry to success through the promotion of safe shipping of goods and service, Jamoh promised that the Agency would consolidate on the gains of the past years by improving collaboration with all stakeholders, aimed at utilising ocean-based resources for the good of the Nigerian economy.
“We will strengthen our maritime safety and security enforcement mechanisms; organise a stakeholders’ engagement towards harnessing the potentials of a blue economy; enhance revenue for increased contribution to the consolidated revenue fund; actualise the movement of the Agency’s headquarters to its newly acquired building in the Victoria Island; ensure the floating dock becomes operational and established the regional maritime safety and security training centre,” Jamoh assured the maritime industry.
According to him, the agency in 2022 will also focus on building regional maritime search and rescue clinic; revive Lokoja office and construct NIMASA central and eastern zonal offices.