President Muhammadu Buhari on Thursday said that Nigeria’s $195million (approximately N80 billion) maritime security project known as the Deep Blue Project will serve as a benchmark for other countries in the Gulf of Guinea.
Speaking at the official commissioning of the project at the Lagos Port Complex Apapa, Buhari said the deep blue project will also help to harness the enormous potentials in the blue economy.
Buhari, who noted that the project is a strong statement of government’s intent to tackle piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, also disclosed that the project was initiated to foster Nigerian security architecture within the nation’s waters and beyond.
He said, “Deep Blue Project is coming at a time the globe has become concerned about piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea. This project displays the concerted efforts to guarantee security and it is a demonstration of the government’s resolve to diversify the nation’s economy and harness blue economy potentials.”
While commending the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Defense for making the project a reality, Buhari encouraged all maritime stakeholders to collaborate with the ultimate goal being the security of the marine domain and the safety of seafarers in the country.
He also noted that the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act in Nigeria has prosecuted ten pirates using the Act.
Earlier in his address, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, noted that the financial and maintenance sustainability of the project would be developed by a Committee to be set up.
Amaechi, however, expressed delight that the assets of the project have already been deployed to guarantee safety at Lagos Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) after the private security outfits for such operations were dismantled.
The Transport Minister commended the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Service Chiefs for their contributions throughout the preliminary stages of the project and encouraged them to maintain the support.
Also speaking, the Director-General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Bashir Jamoh described the deep blue project as “mission accomplished”.
He said the project was aimed at ensuring safer waterways so that businesses can thrive and ultimately boost the national economy.
He applauded President Buhari for signing the Anti-Piracy bill into law, adding that it has convicted about 10 offenders for the first time, under the law.
According to him, NIMASA is working closely with the international community to curtail criminality in the nation’s exclusive economic zone.
He said pirate attacks have reduced from mid-February this year, urging the shipping firms to review the war risk insurance to Nigeria.
Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), Kitack Lim, who joined virtually, appreciated Nigeria’s active engagement to ensure the safety of shipping in the Gulf of Guinea.
He assured of IMO’s cooperation to ensure safety on the waters.
The development, he said reflects Nigeria’s commitment to lead the fight against insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea and inland waters.
On his part, the Minister of Defence, Major General (rtd) Bashir Magashi, stated that with the Deep Blue Project, safety is guaranteed in the maritime sector and this would attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in maritime.
He described the C4i intelligence centre as the heart of the project, adding that with the operation of C4i and the entire project, piracy in the nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the entire maritime space will be addressed.
Magashi stressed the need to make judicious use of the Deep Blue Project assets and advised that proper maintenance be provided to ensure the benefits of the project are fully optimised.