The federal government has disclosed that barring any unforeseen circumstance, the $195 million Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project, which has suffered many delays will commence in the first quarter of next year.
The Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Ameachi announced this during an inspection of some of the Deep Blue Project equipment in Lagos at the weekend.
Amaechi, who was accompanied on the tour by the Minister of Defence, Major General Bashir Magashi (rtd), Chief of Naval Staff, Ibok Ete Ibas and the Director General of NIMASA, Bashir Jamoh, said apart from aircrafts, most of the equipment needed for the project are now in the country
He said the Deep Blue Project, which aims to tackle insecurity on the nation’s waters would commence next year, adding that the aircraft were expected to arrive the country by March 2021.
The federal government had in 2017 approved a $195 million maritime security contract with an Israeli firm, HLS International Limited under the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project.
The contract was in line with efforts to curb increasing criminal activities such as piracy, sea robbery, kidnapping, oil theft, illegal bunkering, smuggling and illegal trafficking in drugs and persons within the Gulf of Guinea, especially Nigeria.
Under the initiative, the government was supposed to have commenced the deployment of security assets first week of January this year to curb maritime criminality.
The current postponement is the fourth time the government would be shifting its position on the takeoff date of the deep blue project, which was expected to have kicked off in 2019.
However, Amaechi said while 85 per cent of the assets have been delivered, others were still expected.
According to him, “Only the helicopters are being awaited. Every other thing has arrived and we hope to receive the helicopters by first quarter of next year. I don’t know when the assets will be deployed because that is a security question. Allow the security men to meet with us the policy makers and then we will conclude.”
He who decried the embarrassment incessant pirates attacks on ships has caused Nigeria blamed past administrations for the problem but reiterated the Muhammadu Buhari government’s determination to rid the nation’s waters of criminal activities.
“No matter how embarrassing the situation is, the fact that the federal government is addressing it is most important. Don’t forget they tried it under Obasanjo, the PICOMMS project, it never worked. They tried it under former President Goodluck Jonathan, it never worked but here you have gentlemen who are determined to make it work and now it worked so just be patient and give us some more time.
“We have said that we expect all the equipment to arrive by March next year and we expect that training should be able to end before March so allow the government to take a decision,”he said.
Also speaking, Magashi said ongoing efforts to deploy all assets needed for the project showed the level of preparedness of the government to tackle insecurity on the nation’s waters.
“We have always been prepared but our coming here today will further increase the preparedness of the Nigerian Navy and the security of our waters. We have commenced training of the naval personnel that will man the equipment and we hope to complete their training by next year.
“The visit is just to see the level of compliance of our platforms in Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri. We are satisfied with what we have on ground, there is a lot of improvement but we hope very soon, we will complete the project,” he said.
On his part, Jamoh restated the agency’s commitment to ensuring the success of the Deep Blue Project with the collaboration of other government agencies.
He disclosed that 67 staff of the agency have so far been trained for the project.