The security of the nation’s inland waterways moved miles ahead recently with the acquisition of patrol boats and advanced security equipment by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Management Agency (NIMASA). It was marked with celebrations. This move is commendable considering the huge role statutorily hanging on the shoulders of the Agency, led by Director General, Dr. Bashir Jamoh. Remarkably, when he came on board in March 2020, the organisation could not boast of operational patrol boats.
The good news is that the new patrol vehicles are eagerly being awaited by his workers, from jetties in Lagos to Delta down to Bonny Anchorage. This development will boost confidence especially among those on routine inspection. It is quite disturbing seeing NIMASA using speed boats in some of its areas of operation. The danger is that even with the presence of seamen from the Nigerian Navy as part of the Maritime Guard Command (MGC), pirates would be emboldened in their activities. The criminals also use speed boats and understand the terrain even better than the enforcers. More disturbing is that NIMASA officials hire speed boats from indigenes who may also be renting out to other users whose purposes are not necessarily spelt out. This is not good for the safety of personnel and the image of the agency. The new Aresa 1300 Sentinel II patrol boats are bullet proof and guarantee adequate cover in the event of exchange of fire in the course of patrol. It is a far departure from the open speed boats, very well-known and mastered by pirates. Jamoh has brought experience to bear in this renewed effort to effect a change, having served in top management positions before his elevation. The Aresa Shipyard in Spain and NIMASA have been involved in business for some time now. Four Aresa 1300 Sentinel II patrol boats were supplied in 2013.
This delivery was followed in 2021 by the purchase of four Aresa 1700 boats. Unfortunately, some boats are demobilised at jetties around Lagos, Port Harcourt and Delta State. It appears to be a new dawn in NIMASA with plans to acquire 28 vessels valued at about $700 million through the Cabotage Vessel Financing Fund (CVFF). Jamoh has promised that the Agency will boost the fund with $350 million. This coming at a time when the government is looking for alternative sources of revenue is a good move. Ship owners will be encouraged to dive into the calm waters offered by the NIMASA initiative. More jobs will be created as new opportunities are thrown open in the maritime industry. While shippers wear new, satiated faces, NIMASA should also do more charity work at home. More patrol boats are needed to go round Lagos, Delta and Port Harcourt areas of operation. Getting these boats also entails increasing manpower. More seamen and officers of the Nigerian Navy will be an added advantage. NIMASA should think of using air advantage as part of patrol strategy.
We recommend helicopters for air surveillance. Nothing can be too much in ensuring safety and security within the country’s inland waterways. In 2022, nine interceptor patrol boats were added to the fleet. Two Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) followed and 10 armoured vehicles were procured. The task of maritime security is capital intensive, the gains are equally attractive. Going for both is what NIMASA should target. Jamoh is not all about equipment. He is doing a good job in giving workers a new look.
The new Zonal headquarters in Port Harcourt and the Zonal office in Abuja make the job more conducive. The import is that NIMASA officers, especially those patrolling the Bonny axis, have a befitting environment at the end of every shift. Maritime workers have also benefitted. The NIMASA Director General donated two utility vehicles to the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN). And this will soon be followed by two bullet proof buses to help NIMASA personnel enforce regulation, track offenders and collect revenue from oil lifting jobs. In all this, we expect maximum distribution of the patrol boats across NIMASA operational bases. And this has to be with immediate effect. The sight of NIMASA and MGC officers mounting speed boats does not help the good job Jamoh is doing. We know he knows the way round this risky venture and trust that as a well-informed insider, those speed boats will pretty soon give way to Aresa patrol boats with NIMASA boldly emblazoned across. Jamoh’s armoured boats will make the difference.