The federal government has described illegal oil bunkerers in Nigeria as the seventh largest oil producers in Africa.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the launch of the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also called the Deep Blue Project, the Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon Rotimi Amaechi said illegal oil bunkerers generate a whopping $7 billion (N2.5trillion at a prevailing rate of 360/$) annually unhindered in Nigeria.
Amaechi who said the Deep Blue Project, when fully operational, would drastically reduce piracy and other crimes within Nigeria’s maritime domain and the Gulf of Guinea also disclosed that the illegal bunkerers had tried assiduously to frustrate the project.
He said, “The Americans came to my office when I was governor of Rivers state and told me Nigerian illegal bunkerers are the seventh largest oil producers in Africa and they made $7billion dollars a year. $7 billion is more than one third of our budget so, the moment we put the maritime infrastructure in place, we have knocked out those people and you think they will go freely, they will fight back.
“What did you do when they started the fight, just google my name, they will say the contract is Amaechi’s contract. The truth is we need to come out and defend the country from private and special interest.”
Giving insight into the battle the ministry and agency went through for the approval of the security contract, he said, “The cabinet finally approved, we moved again and they took us to the national assembly and no one asked how they put this hearing live on television, they were asking us questions and no one asked how they got money to put us on live television anyway, we scaled that and legislature approved so, we must all come out to defend this country,” he said.
Also speaking, the director general of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr Dakuku Peterside said 80 per cent of the assets required for the take-off of the total spectrum maritime security architecture would be deployed by June.
Giving a breakdown of the assets being installed under the Deep Blue Project, Dakuku revealed that a good number of the assets had arrived the country, including six interceptor boats and a special mission vessel, saying a second one will come in before the end of February.
The Director-General also disclosed that the first special mission aircraft will be in the country before the end of the first quarter of the year, while six armoured aircraft were already in the country, and the first unmanned aerial vehicle would come in before the end of February.
Dakuku stated, “We expect the first helicopter in the first quarter of this year. Almost all the communication gadgets are in the country as well as the Personal Protective Gear (PPG). The C4i centre is fully operational in Kirikiri, the NIMASA Research Centre. Those are the assets we have on ground.
“However, between now and June this year, over 80 per cent of the assets would be in the country and they would be manned by Nigerian military.”
Dakuku stated that the training aspect of the project had since commenced in phases. He said the first set of training for C4i operators and intelligence officers had been concluded. Basic infantry training for soldiers who would fight on land around the littoral areas has also been concluded and the soldiers awaiting deployment, according to him.
“These trainings would continue over time as we try to integrate the intelligence officers with the C4i and those operating the special mission vessels and aircraft,”Dakuku said
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