At the commissioning ceremony of the long delayed maritime security equipment purchased by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) under the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure project, otherwise called the Deep Blue Project on Thursday June 10, 2021, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, made a very wild claim that should not be allowed to be swept under the carpet.
Amaechi claimed that under the regime of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, a whopping sum of €300 million to €400 million was spent on the purchase of maritime security equipment, the same equipment that they had just purchased and were launching at the ceremony. He topped the claim by saying that the equipment had long disappeared.
This claim is quite preposterous. The history of Nigeria’s maritime sector does not have any record of the frittering away of such humongous amount purportedly spent on the purchase of maritime security assets.
Undoubtedly, Amaechi’s claim can be viewed as a desperate attempt to justify the $195million spent by his ministry to acquire the surface and air patrol crafts meant for the fight against piracy and other maritime crimes in the nation’s territorial waters and Exclusive Economic Zone. It is an imaginary comparison meant to sway Nigerians that the amount spent on purchasing the security assets that were being launched is less than what was spent by the Obasanjo administration for the same purpose.
To further impress his boss, President Muhammadu Buhari, who was at the event, Amaechi further said he would make sure that the equipment that were launched would “remain because Nigerians who do business on the water are not good people. Most unpatriotic Nigerians are not good.”
One finds it difficult to understand the reason for such a wild and sweeping claim by Amaechi – if not to discredit the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo or to criminalize Nigerian maritime operators before President Buhari. Had the claim been true or had any iota of credibility, it would have been allowed to pass, but making up stories or mixing up facts in order to achieve a selfish end must be condemned by all lovers of truth and decency.
Perhaps, the minister would have scored some level of credibility if he had disclosed who purchased the equipment, and the organization that managed it, for Nigerians to have somebody or agency to hold responsible for the ‘disappearance” of the assets.
From all indication, what Amaechi may have been referring to are the assets acquired by the Presidential Implementation Committee on Maritime Safety and Security (PICOMMS), which was set up in 2003 to help Nigerian ports comply with the implementation of the International Ships and Ports Facility Security Code (ISPS) Code that came into effect globally as the maritime industry’s response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in the United States of America.
SHIPS & PORTS findings confirm that the equipment acquired by PICOMSS in this regards were nowhere near the amount claimed by Amaechi. Most importantly, the equipment have not ‘disappeared’ as claimed by the minister.
For example, the two Diamond DA42 MPP surveillance aircraft acquired by PICOMSS are intact and are under the custody of the Nigerian Air Force (NAF).
Amaechi’s penchant for reckless and unguarded utterances is unbecoming. The tag of “criminals” he placed on the nation’s maritime operators is uncalled for, as it has the capacity to mar industry’s reputation and international image. As Nigeria’s transport minister, his words are weighty and have far-reaching implications.
The minister’s comments, full of self-glorification, is an obvious ploy to get a blank cheque from the President to act as he (Amaechi) pleases in the sector.
This must not be allowed to happen. The reputation of the maritime industry must not be sullied because of the ambition of one man.
Maritime operators must be bold and courageous enough to demand some respect for themselves and for the industry rather than indulge in singing the praises of every transport minister that comes on stage as they are wont to do.
Copyright Ships & Ports Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit given to www.shipsandports.com.ng as the source.