It was the revered British leader Winston Churchill, who submitted that “an Appeaser is one who feeds the crocodile in the hope that it would eat him last.” An analysis of the submission would indicate that many people, nations and leaders, simply shy away from taking bold and painful decisions in order to address an inconveniencing challenge in the hope such problem would disappear with the passage of time.
In Nigeria, many malevolent challenges that are neither necessary nor permanent and constitute severe national setbacks, abound in various sectors of the economy with successive administrations shying away from them, apparently due to political reasons or lack of political will to confront the monsters. Some of these atrocities manifest in the form of sea piracy, kidnapping, crude oil theft and bunkering, which rob the nation of huge cash and scare away foreign investors from the country. The obnoxious trend has been going on in Nigeria for many decades with no serious challenge from the government, inadvertently encouraging the malicious elements from within and without Nigeria to feast on the nation’s maritime resources without any challenge from any quarter.
Indeed, the predators of the country’s aquatic wealth had been feeding fat from an unmanned goldmine sector and smiling to their banks while the nation kept reel from their havoc, losing men, materials and huge resources as a consequence of its docility and laissez-faire disposition towards a serious national security threat.
But the looting and plundering of the nation’s oceanic wealth are now substantially and effectively being contained thanks to a tactical, holistic, proactive and multi-level scheme known as “Deep Blue Project”.
The Deep Blue Project, a bi-ministerial collaboration of the Federal Ministries of Defence and Transportation, as well as the Office of the National Security Adviser (NSA), developed a maritime security architecture comprising all military and security services as well as the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) with the aim of building a crime-free maritime environment for shipping businesses to thrive. In line with this, the Federal Executive Council (FEC) in 2017 approved the sum of $195 million for the execution of the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure framework, which is popularly known as the Deep Blue Project.
The project, which is being handled by Homeland Security International (HLSI), a well-known Israeli security firm registered in Nigeria, is aimed at tackling piracy, sea robbery, kidnapping, oil theft, smuggling, illegal trafficking of drugs and other related maritime crimes on Nigeria’s territorial waters and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) up to the Gulf of Guinea region.
Under the scheme,, which was flagged off by President Muhammadu Buhari in June 2021 in Lagos, the contractors have meticulously project deployed critical assets such as Special Mission Vessels, 17 Fast Interceptor Boats, two Special Mission Aircraft, three helicopters, four unmanned aerial vehicles and 16 armoured vehicles for tackling maritime insecurity.
The Deep Blue Project also involves the training of field and technical operatives drawn from the various strata of the security services including Nigerian Navy, Airforce, Nigerian Army and the NIMASA as well as the establishment of a command and control centre for data collection and information sharing to aid targeted enforcement. In June, 2021, President Muhammadu Buhari launched the Deep Blue Project in Lagos.
It is a fact that since its launch, the project has recorded a massive decline in maritime insecurity and sea piracy on Nigerian waters, drawing accolades from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), which has scored Nigeria high in the security of the Gulf of Guinea. It has also drawn applause for the first time from the Republic of Korea, which singled it out for glowing tributes for [its effectiveness. The security architecture includes hi-tech weapons, surveillance equipment, a C4i centre, special mission aircrafts, special mission vessels, special mission helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, high speed Interceptor boats, armoured vehicles, among others.
Interestingly, this project, the first of its kind in the country, has come under several probes notably by the House of Representatives. At least, two of the probes so far, have been carried out by the House of Representatives Committee on Public Procurement and Committee on Public Petitions. But in all the probes so far carried out, nothing sinister has been spotted about the contract or the way the contractors are conducting their operations.
But in a twist that smacks of curiosity and suspicion, the nation was woken up by a new probe ordered by the same House of Representatives presided over by its Speaker, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila. Indeed, the new round of probe of a project that has already been completed, commissioned by Mr. President and is working seamlessly and attracting global applause, is something that has raised concerns as to whether there are some political motives being pursued by the leadership of the protagonists of the inexplicable inquiry.
Of course, those who are suspicious of some elements in the House of Representatives being actuated by political motives rather than national interest may have some points in that the masterminds of the new probe ordered last week, appear to be injudicious over their new enquiry. A case in point to prove that the ordered new probe has no bearing is the fact that the House of Representatives Committee on Navy, which has now been asked to probe the contract afresh, wrongly directed its invitation letter to the Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA).
Perhaps, in their hurry to execute their hatchet proxy war, they failed to do a proper check to know that the Deep Blue project is not domiciled in the NPA but in the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Defence. Again, this goes to show in another level, that the probe is a mere witch hunt hurriedly instituted apparently to score some political points and confer some political mileage on some while others are diminished in the process.
That is why it is vital that all men of goodwill must rise up to defend what is right in the land and vilify the evil that is being orchestrated under the guise of over-sighting. Evil must not be allowed to tower over righteousness so that we may not end of up suffering from what is neither necessary nor permanent.
We must not forget the words of the Russian writer, Alexander Herzen, who wrote that: “The men, who spearheaded the republic, became the assassins of freedom”. Given feedback from relevant maritime organizations and stakeholders from within and outside Nigeria, it is apt to say that the Deep Blue Project, which has virtually ended sea piracy and related crimes since its launch over a year ago by President Buhari and has not attracted by negative outcome, deserves garlands, not any further probe or query.