The Federal Government may have shelved its promise of floating some high-tech machinery 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 n=months after, the project now appears elusive.
President Muhammadu Buhari had earlier this year, approved the sum of $186 million 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 Amaechi, who disclosed the plan at an industry forum in Lagos, had assured “In the next three months, you will see them operating and by the time we finish, you will see that change is coming. Change is not talked about, it is felt, so you should give us time to fix it.”
Upon inquiry about the update on the facilities, spokesperson for the Nigerian Navy, Chris Ezekobe, said that he was 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 call offshore patrol vessels.”
“We have two existing ones that we brought from China. Those are the 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 plan to acquire the maritime security infrastructure was announced, Nigeria’s maritime territory has continued to report many attacks and kidnappings.
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 IMB Director, Pottengal Mukundan said “In general, all waters in and off Nigeria remain risky despite interventions in some cases by the Nigerian Navy. We advise vessels to be vigilant. The number of attacks in the Gulf of Guinea could even be higher than our figures, as many incidents continue to be unreported.
The Commandant, Nigerian Defence Academy, Rear Admiral Adeniyi Adejimi Oshinowo, gave a rough estimate of the Navy’s patrol requirements.
“They include at least 18 low/medium endurance offshore patrol vessels (OPVs)and nine helicopter carrying long endurance OPVs, and three Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), which are needed to provide adequate aerial protection of Nigeria’s coastal and deep offshore waterways.”