Nigerian Government to Spend $22.995 on Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea

Sea Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea

Piriye Kiyaramo

In what seems like a reactionary move to counter the recent global outrage on the deteriorating maritime security  situation in the Guinea, Nigerian government on Wednesday (December 14, 2018, $22.995 million (N7.14billion) to engage the six companies to compliment the efforts of the Nigerian Navy in policing the nation’s maritime routes.

report that puts Nigeria in the number one position in the number of recorded attacks against vessels in the second quarter 2018, six security companies have been contracted by the federal government to enhance security of the nation’s territorial waters.

The Minister of Transportation, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, disclosed this when he briefed State House correspondents on the outcome of the Council’s meeting presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

He said the approved amount was for six companies to protect six sections of the coastal routes to enhance security of the maritime domain.

The minister who was silent on the names of the benefiting companies neither provided details on the nature of the contract, the “six sections” to be manned by the organisations or the level of collaboration with the Nigerian Navy.

The approval by FEC comes four months after the federal government reinstated the security contract with an Israeli firm. In October 2017, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) had signed a security contract valued at $195 million with an Israeli firm, HLSL Security Systems and Technologies, for the procurement of security equipment to assist in training its operatives in tackling crime along the nation’s waterways.

President Muhammadu Buhari, however in May this year announced the cancellation of the contract via a memo dispatched by his Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari.

The President, in the memo, directed the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, to terminate the contract with immediate effect.

He also ordered the National Security Adviser (NSA) and the Nigerian Intelligence Agency (NIA) to investigate how the contractor obtained security clearance for the job without an end user certificate.

President Buhari had also ordered HLSI Security Systems and Technologies to supply items equivalent to the $50 million upfront payment it received from government.

Three months later, the contract was reinstated. The Director General of NIMASA, Dakuku Peterside, explained that the contract was initially stalled as a result of investigation on the status of the firm.

According to Peterside, the firm has since been given clean bill of health to proceed with the contract after the conclusion of the investigation.

He said, “At some point, there were issues raised about the status of the firm and indeed the President directed that further investigations be made on the status and record of the firm.”

Amaechi did not explain if the six firms’ contract will run concurrently with initial one with HLSI Security Systems and Technologies he championed through NIMASA.

The latest figures from the International Maritime Bureau confirm the rising threat of piracy in Nigerian waters. In response, the navy is changing its strategy, according to a security analyst.

The International Maritime Bureau’s (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center has once again identified Nigerian waters as being extremely dangerous.

According to figures available for the first three months of 2018, Nigeria alone recorded 22 incidents since the beginning of January. Of the 11 vessels fired upon worldwide, eight were off Nigeria — including a tanker more than 40 nautical miles off Brass, in Bayelsa state in the Niger Delta, with a capacity of 300,000 metric tons.

In 2017, the IMB reported over 20 attacks on vessels in the same area.

Security analyst and head of the Beacon Consulting security risk management company in Nigeria, Kabeer Adamu, says monitoring by the IBM plays a major role in assessing the threat posed by piracy.

“If we do not get such organizations to speak out about such things, then unfortunately they go under the radar and they become bigger problems,” Adamu said.

“The problem seriously impacts the use of the corridor in the Gulf of Guinea for trading purposes. There is also the issue of insurance — as a matter of necessity, ships must now insure their crews as well as the vessel, on top of additional high security costs.

According to the IMB, pirates in the Gulf of Guinea target all kinds of vessels. Crews from fishing and refrigerated cargo vessels, or even oil tankers, have been taken hostage or kidnapped. The bureau says it is working with national and regional authorities in the Gulf to provide support to ships and coordinate anti-piracy measures.

Adamu says the Nigerian navy is responding to the threat by changing strategies and cooperating with international partners.

“I am aware that it has carried out no less than four operations targeting specific challenges in the region; some of them internal to Nigeria, some of them affecting the entire Gulf of Guinea.

“I know it has also created check points, so any ship leaving Nigeria is checked, and its contents, to ensure that it has followed whatever regulatory procedures are in place.”

A former pirate in the Gulf region said that attacks are usually carried out for monetary gain.

But now the problem is on the rise in the Gulf of Guinea. EU leaders are preparing to announce a strategy to increase security efforts in the region.