There are two issues here: the award of contract to secure Nigerian waters to an Israeli firm, and whether that decision will bring to an end the criminal acts on Nigerian waters. Firstly, I have no objection to the award of the contract provided Nigerians will understudy the Israelis and pick up the necessary know-how before the end of the term of the contract. That should be built into the contract. Secondly, I would like to see that criminal activities on the Nigerian waters are curtailed to the barest minimum, even if it takes a contract like this to achieve it. Criminal activities on our waters thrive largely because security on our waters has not been given the serious attention it deserves. And this is because the Nigerian government has not given the maritime sector the attention it deserves. It is hoped that with an Israeli firm in charge of our maritime domain, criminal acts will reduce drastically. But since our waters would not be secured forever by foreigners, sustained security of maritime domain can only be achieved if Nigerians acquire the necessary sea crime preventive know-how from the foreign firm for deployment in the future. Sustainability is key here.
I do not have details of the maritime security contract to an Israeli firm by NIMASA. However, criminal acts on Nigerian waters are encouraged and sustained by the inadequacy of security coverage. Criminals who know that their operations will not be constrained within vast areas of the waters are able to operate with impunity. Technology will help in ensuring that vessels in every single part of Nigerian waters can be monitored. Regulatory efforts should ensure that AIS equipment are not only installed but switched on at all times. Naval patrols should be routine and more platforms should be available to facilitate that. For rogue vessels used by the criminals, which do not have or deliberately switch off their AIS equipment, satellite imagery should be a continuous back up for monitoring the waters. NIMASA should have an effective response mechanism for distress call received and should have a functional interventionist arrangement with both the Navy and the Air Force.
It is the Minister of Transportation that got the approval from the Federal Executive Council. What I know is that there was a gap when the previous contract was cancelled. The contract has gone to a level where NIMASA and Navy, and I must tell you that security companies from other countries were involved. If the Israeli firm have been contracted to do it, then it also entails security aspect too. The gap has been there since the other company assigned were sacked for reasons best known to them, and they have done a lot of work with NIMASA and Navy but now, the Israeli firm is to fill the gap and this is supposed to reduce the illegality in our coast and if possible it might extend to the Gulf of Guinea.
I have not seen the contract and it is not made known to shipowners, so I cannot talk on it but I believe that whatever the government and NIMASA are putting in place that will assist or bring security on the water, I think it will be supported because what we need is a safe passage of vessels along the coast and not only our vessels but any vessel that is coming into Nigeria should have that safety position that whenever the vessel come to Nigeria, it is safe. It is important for any ship that is plying our waters, so anything that the government can do to increase safety and the security of the Nigeria’s coast is something that is to be encouraged.