27 August, 2013
The Nigerian Air Force (NAF) is set to
deploy its war planes to fight piracy on
Nigerian waters. This was revealed yesterday during the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) and NAF at the Defence Headquarters, Abuja, Nigeria’s capital.
Under the new working arrangement
between both parties, NAF airborne
assets namely the ATR 42 MPA, the Mi-35P, Augusta Light Utility Helicopters,
and where necessary, Alpha Jet aircraft
and associated platforms, will be deployed to complement NIMASA’s other
collaborative efforts with other
government agencies to fight criminal
activities on the nation’s territorial
Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Badeh,
said at the MoU signing ceremony that
NAF has the capability to “go deep into
the sea to cover our EEZ (Exclusive
Economic Zone) and see what is
happening there.” The NAF Chief described as unacceptable, a situation where criminals carry out nefarious activities on the nation’s territorial waters with impunity.
“With this MoU with NIMASA, we will be
able to identify where the criminal
elements are, mount surveillance on their activities and make it more difficult for them to operate,” Badeh stated, even as he solicited financial support for research and development in the Air Force from NIMASA.
Speaking earlier, Director-General of
NIMASA, Mr. Ziakede Patrick
Akpobolokemi, said that, while the
agency has received support from NAF in
the past, it has become imperative to
formalise the working arrangement between both organisations. “This MoU that we are signing today will send a clear message to oil thieves and other criminals on our waters that their days are numbered,” Akpobolokemi said. He said that NIMASA will provide necessary logistics support and funding to the Air Force to maintain security on the waters.
“We won’t allow bureaucracy to cripple
implementation of this MoU,” the NIMASA helmsman stated, even as he expressed hope that oil theft will be substantially reduced over the next one year. He said: “The incidence of crude oil theft, sea robbery and piracy are the foremost reasons the agency has approached the Nigerian Air Force to strike a formidable operation framework that would enable the deployment of age-long air surveillance excellence of the Nigerian Air Force.
Recent successful joint operations of the agency with the Nigerian Navy (NN) and the Nigerian Air Force have given impetus to the need to consummate this partnership.
“As we formally endorse the agreement
to widen the nation’s frontiers of
maritime security, we expect that
legitimate shipping, oil and gas activities on Nigerian waters will begin to contribute immensely to the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). We assure the Nigerian Air Force that this MoU and its objectives will be pursued in the best interest of nation building and that of the Nigerian maritime industry.The high command of the Nigerian Air Force, led by the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Alex Sabundu Badeh, has openly demonstrated in this MoU that our marine resources and waterways hold the key to Nigeria’s economic development.”
NIMASA and NAF will cooperate in the
areas of Intelligence, Surveillance and
Reconnaissance (ISR) operations; Search
and Rescue operations at sea; Tactical
Airlift Operations; and Enforcement
Action that include, but not limited to, anti-piracy, anti-smuggling; illegal
bunkering and illegal fishing activities.NIMASA has an existing MoU with the
Nigerian Navy which gave rise to the
establishment of the Maritime Guard
Command at NIMASA.
Meanwhile, kidnappings of sailors on
merchant ships in waters off Nigeria and nearby countries surged in the first half as pirates attacked a broader range of vessels and sought targets farther out at sea.
Pirates operating in the Gulf of Guinea,
believed to be operating from Nigeria,
kidnapped 30 crew in the period,
compared with three seized worldwide in 2012’s first six months, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), a London-based group tracking sea crime, said in a report in July.
Attackers previously tended to seek out
ships involved in the regional oil industry and now are targeting container ships and other merchant vessels, IMB said. The increase poses a new threat to trade at a time when naval forces, armed guards and better on-board security are quelling attacks off Africa’s eastern coast.
West and Central African leaders recently signed a code of conduct to repress attacks. “If these attacks are left unchecked, they will become more frequent, bolder and more violent,” IMB Director Pottengal Mukundan said in the report.