By Akanimo Sampson
Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, has again stated the commitment of Nigerian Navy to a safer maritime sector in the country.
The sector comprises of ports, shipping, dockyards, Inland Water Transport (IWT) and all marine related activities. Insiders say the sector caters for the bulk of the country’s trade and investment through import and exchange of commodities which is critical for the economic development of Nigeria. It also influences the pace, structure and pattern of development.
But, there has been a surge of concern about maritime safety and security, with particular focus on the danger that insecurity of the seas poses to the country’s commerce, peace and stability. The quest for peaceful trade and movement over the water ways, adequate security, stability and development in the sector is therefore, of paramount importance.
With the worrisome crude oil theft, kidnapping, sea piracy, arms smuggling, terror attacks and other marine-related unwholesome activities, advocates say ICT can provide a platform that would greatly facilitate the generation of action intelligence for the purpose of curbing the rising incidents of marine-related crimes and illegal activities.
They are quick to mention the use of long-range surveillance facility which shortens the relay of information form ships in distress and also the reaction time for security forces on rapid deployment and rescue missions – thus improving safety of lives at sea.
It is also being advocated that the waterways should be equipped with radar coverage and satellite monitoring equipment. This, those pressing for it say, will enhance intelligence gathering capacity in the battle against privacy and illicit trafficking across the water ways.
However, Navy Spokesman, Comdr Suleman Dahun, was quoted by the News Agency of Nigeria as saying that the CNS gave the assurance while defending the 2019 Nigerian Navy Budget before the Senate Committee on Navy.
‘’In view of the vital role played by Nigerian Navy in defense of the nation’s maritime interests, it is expedient for Federal Government to invest more in recapitalisation of capital assets and other infrastructure for the Navy to effectively secure Nigeria’s vast maritime environment.
‘’There has been progressive increase in the percentage of foiled attacks on shipping over the last four years with significantly fewer attacks on shipping. This is attributable to increased Navy deterrence posture and dominance at sea, facilitating increased shipping and cargo tonnage into Nigeria’’, the naval big boss said.
According to Ibas, the Nigerian Shippers Council affirmed a 31.24 per cent increase in volume of cargo into Nigeria with 21 per cent rise in associated coastal activities between 2017 and 2018, a 27 per cent increase in vessel registration and a 10.3 per cent increase in port calls by foreign vessels, adding, ‘’the aforementioned increases are indicative of a more conducive maritime business environment through the efforts of the navy.’’
Continuing, he said the navy had expanded its sphere of influence in response to increasing migratory threats by establishing new bases across the country, entering into bilateral and multilateral relations with countries in the sub-region, pointing out that regional maritime security initiatives like the deployment of watch-keepers to the Maritime Trade Information Sharing Centre in Ghana and the Multi-National Maritime Coordination Centre in Benin Republic had been actualised.
Ibas also revealed that the navy also entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Heads of Navies of ECOWAS Zone E member countries namely, Benin Republic, Togo and the Gendarmerie of Niger Republic for joint patrols “of the our common maritime environment’’.
The CNS said that other modest achievements of the NN in 2018 also include the construction of several jetties, particularly the reconstruction of Nigerian Navy Ship BEECROFT jetty.
“Also, completion and commissioning of the Nigerian Navy Reference Hospital Calabar and the establishment of the Nigerian Navy Military School at Ikot-Ntuen in Akwa Ibom state. This is in addition to induction of over 200 Riverine Patrol Boats (RPBs) into NN inventory as well as progression of contract for construction of the Landing Ship Tank (LST), Hydrography ship and other RPBs’’, he said.
While saying that the navy in 2018 also made significant progress in its manpower development efforts through the recruitment of 1,106 and 1,176 ratings in batches 27 and 28 respectively, he added that 118 and 141 officers were also enlisted through Direct Short Service Commission (DSSC) Courses 24 and 25 respectively in 2018.
Plans, according to him, were currently at advanced stages for the recruitment of about 3,000 ratings for Batch 29, while the training of 120 Midshipmen of NDA 66 and 73 cadets of DSSC 26 was ongoing, and promised that the navy will do a lot more in year 2019 and beyond.
Adding, he said, ‘’this expectation will be realised with improved funding of the navy for enhanced performance in the delivery of its mandate of ensuring peaceful and safer water ways for genuine maritime activities to thrive thereby boosting Nigeria’s economy.’’