The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, has reiterated the federal government's determination to rid the Nigerian territorial waters of criminalities through the Integrated Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project.
Amaechi disclosed this in Lagos during the graduation ceremony for participants of the C4I Intelligence System Operator Course for the Deep Blue Project.
The ceremony was attended by the top echelons of the Nigerian Armed Forces, led by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin represented by Rear Admiral A. Akinrinade.
Amaechi stated that the 853km long Nigeria coastline and the country's location in the Gulf of Guinea made it strategic for both maritime activities and security issues.
According to the minister, who was represented by the Director, Maritime Safety and Security, Federal Ministry of Transportation, Dajuma Dauda, "The length of our coastline, our exclusive economic zone, as well as our strategic location on a major shipping route, which is the Gulf of Guinea, means that we cannot afford illegalities, such as piracy, oil theft, sea robbery, and other crimes.
"The Deep Blue Project is a conscious effort towards addressing illegality in our territorial waters and, indeed, the Gulf of Guinea."
In his welcome address, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Dakuku Peterside, said the Deep Blue Project would drastically reduce criminalities in the Gulf of Guinea.
Dakuku explained that the project was multifaceted and involved the training of selected officers from the various strata of the security services and NIMASA as well as acquisition of assets to combat maritime crime.
He stated, "The Deep Blue Project is a multipronged approach towards tackling insecurity in our territorial waters and the entire Gulf of Guinea. What we are doing is fulfilling the training aspect of the project and this will also be complemented by acquisition of assets, such as fast intervention vessels, surveillance aircraft, and other facilities, including a command and control centre for data collection and information sharing that will aid our goals of targeted enforcement."
The NIMASA DG added, "The Deep Blue Project is geared towards building a formidable integrated surveillance and security architecture that will comprehensively combat maritime crime and criminalities in Nigeria's waterways up to the Gulf of Guinea."
Dakuku stated that the Agency, in collaboration with the National Assembly, was taking steps to ensure that the Antipiracy Bill was passed soon. He said NIMASA was involved in both regional and domestic collaborations to ensure that maritime crimes in the country's waterways were reduced to a bare minimum, if not completely eliminated.
In his remarks, the best graduating student among the 21 course participants, Abdul Razaq Lawal Mohammed, said the course exposed participants to security challenges being faced in the Gulf of Guinea region and the possible solutions.
He promised to bring his experience to bear in efforts to make the Nigerian maritime space safe for investment.
Certificates were presented to the successful participants by the GOC 9th Mechanised Division, Maj-Gen M. S. Yusuf representing the Chief of Army Staff; Air Commodore S. O. Shobande and Rear Admiral M. A. Eno Represented the Chief of Air Staff and the Chief of Naval Staff respectively. Also the Police was represented by AIG, Marine, Abdul Dahir Danwanu; and Mr Ado Ibrahim represented the Department of State Security Service (DSS).
The participants were drawn from the Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, DSS, and NIMASA.
NIMASA had earlier in the year graduated 24 C4i system operators and also, recently, 300 officers of the Nigerian Army who were trained on the Basic Infantry Course, all under the Deep Blue Project. The Intelligence System Operator Course, with 21 graduates, is an aspect of the training that focuses on intelligence, data gathering, and information sharing towards a targeted enforcement approach.
The project provides both land and air based surveillance capabilities with command and control centres located across the country for data gathering and information sharing.