The Federal government has approved a security contract valued at $195 million awarded to an Israeli firm to procure security equipment and assist in training Nigerian security personnel tackle crime along the nation’s waterways.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi, who disclosed this at an event to mark this year’s World Maritime Day, in Lagos yesterday, did not reveal the name of the firm, but said the contract which will commence in December will last for a period of three years after which the company will handover to Nigerian security personnel.
Nigerian maritime domain is still facing security challenges, as more case of attack and kidnappings are recorded this year. Amaechi said the agreement became imperative given the high charges shipping firms’ pay for security escort on Nigerian waterways.
“The Israelis have assured us that after the training of our security operatives, such harassment and attacks on our waterways will not happen again. They even said we should hold them accountable if such harassment persists on our waterways after the training. That is one achievement that has happened under our leadership in the maritime sector, he said.
According to him, an operator spends about $18 million on a yearly basis due to insecurity on the nation’s waterways, in addition to high war risk insurance payable by shippers to do business Nigerian waters.
“One of the burning issues in the maritime sector is security. The Federal Government has contacted an Israeli firm who is going to train our security men. They will buy equipment and dominate Nigeria’s waterways for the next three years.
“Within those three years, the Israeli firm will train our security operatives for them to take over after the expiration of the contract. They are yet to launch because they are still buying the equipment. When you see the equipment on the waterways, people will know they are safe and secured.
“Mr President has kindly approved that, and that is being done through the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA). In the three years, they will train our Navy, our Army and our Police so that we can stop spending money escorting boats and vessels on our waterways.
“Currently, Maersk told me they spend between $15m and $18m annually to those escorting their vessels from one point to another on our waterways. We should be able to deflate that by next year so that people can do their businesses on our waterways without any fear of being attacked or harassed,” he said.
Commandant, Nigerian Defense College, Real Admiral Adeniyi Adejimi Oshinowo, said im proving maritime safety in Nigerian waterways requires concerted efforts through inter-agency and cross-border collaboration on maritime security.