Nigeria will spend $186 million to combat piracy in a bid to safeguard its waters and vessels moving in and out of the country.
Transport minister, Rotimi Amaechi, revealed this in a speech at Nor-Shipping’s inaugural Africa Podium in Oslo, Norway.
The fund is meant to acquire three new ready-for-war ships, three aircraft, 12 vessels and 20 amphibious vehicles to combat the menace of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
In the latest report by the International Maritime Bureau, Nigeria was named as one of the hotspots for sea piracy.
The report said: “Of the 27 seafarers kidnapped worldwide for ransom between January and March 2017, 63 per cent were in the Gulf of Guinea. Nigeria is the main kidnap hotspotwith 17 crew taken in three separate incidents, up from 14 in the same period last year.
“All three vessels – a general cargo ship, a tanker and a bulk carrier were attacked while underway 30-60 nautical miles off the Bayelsa coast. Three more ships were fired upon at up to 110 nautical miles from land, and many other attacks are believed to go unreported,” it stated.
Director of IMB, Pottengal Mukundan, said: “The Gulf of Guinea is a major area of concern, consistently dangerous for seafarers, and signs of kidnappings increasing. IMB has worked closely with the response agencies in the region including the Nigerian Navy, which has provided valuable support, but more needs to be done to crack down on the area’s armed gangs. We urge vessels to report all incidents so that the true level of piracy activity can be assessed.”
Mr Amaechi allayed potential investors’ fears of growing security concerns in Nigeria’s seaway amid the rise in attacks by pirates.
He revealed that over the next six months, the Nigerian government would give additional training to its navy, while providing technical and further support to patrol vessels in the region.
Security would also be stepped up at the country’s ports.
“Rest assured, in six months you will no longer be harassed in our waters,” he told delegates.
Mr Amaechi said piracy is not the only issue currently impacting the progress of the maritime sector in Nigeria.
While admitting that eradicating this growing issue was the main priority, Mr Amaechi was keen to point out that Nigeria was also making significant strides in its bid to improve its creaking transport infrastructure.
“All you hear about is efforts to stamp out corruption, but we are working extremely hard to develop transport infrastructure,” he added.
Whether this be roads or railways, the development of ports, the dredging of inland waterways and coastal regions, he said there was huge investment and resources earmarked for projects now and in the future.
Mr Amaechi also revealed that transport has by far and away the largest budget allocation from the government.
“Things are changing,” he said.