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Foreign Navies Tackle Nigeria’s Maritime Threats

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BETWEEN October and November of 2021, three foreign navies announced their presence in Nigerian waters, with two out of the three navies helping to thwart what would have been another major maritime threat on containerized vessels operating in the nation’s waters. 

This is even as much has not been heard of Nigeria’s $195m Deep Blue project anchored by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) in the last two months, and the whereabouts of the assets are yet unknown. 

On the 27th of October, 2021, a Russian Naval Destroyer, Vice-Admiral Kulakov, foiled what would have been another maritime security threat in Nigerian waters when she helped scare away pirates who had already boarded a container vessel, MSC Lucia, at 86 nautical miles Southwest of offshore Agbami Oil Terminal. The pirates fled the ship through the aid of a small speedboat when they saw a Kamov Ka-27PS helicopter, which had been dispatched by the Vice-Admiral Kulakov, approaching with sea soldiers. 

Again, on November 25, a Danish warship, Esbern Snare, was conducting an operation protecting shipping routes in the Gulf of Guinea when it spotted a fast-moving vessel carrying eight suspected pirates near a number of commercial ships. 

“After the Danish frigate fired warning shots, the pirates opened fire on the Danish navy special forces, who in turn shot and killed four pirates and wounded one. The remaining four pirates were taken on board the frigate, and no Danish personnel was hurt in the incident. It was the first time the frigate had opened fire during its current mission in the Gulf of Guinea,” the Danish military said in a statement. 

Also, on October 23, a British warship berthed at the Lagos ports enroute other locations along the Gulf of Guinea. 

Speaking with the Nigerian Tribune on the development, a former Director in NIMASA who wouldn’t want his name in print wondered whether the Nigerian Navy was aware of such commando operations taking place on Nigerian waters and why the Deep Blue assets had not been involved in all these operations. 

According to the former NIMASA Director, “It’s important that the shooting from the Danish warship should be investigated because in international shipping, there must be a distress call from a ship before any patrol boat can determine that such ship is under attack. I am a Captain and have operated ships for years. On every ship, there is a button that is pressed once a vessel is under attack. 

“In the case of the Danish warship shooting, there was no distress call made. The Danish statement said its forces fired warning shots and were fired back at before responding with superior fire power. That needs to be investigated to confirm if truly the people shot at were pirates. 

“Again, all these military happenings from foreign navies in and around our waters, is the Nigerian Navy aware? When was the last time the Deep Blue assets were involved in military onslaughts against pirates? Where are the Deep Blue assets? 

“Some of the Deep Blue assets are tied down at the Navy Town in Lagos, yet foreign navies are the ones fighting pirates on our waters. The Nigerian authorities need to step up to avoid militarisation of our waters by foreign navies.” 

When contacted, a very close source to the Nigerian Navy said there is no way a foreign navy will be in Nigerian waters and the Nigerian Navy won’t be aware. 

The source, however, said he was not aware of the location of the Deep Blue assets. 

In the words of the top Nigerian Navy source, “Conduct of international maritime affairs is governed by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982. That is the document that guides international naval operations worldwide. 

“Now, under Article 100 of UNCLOS, the law gives the Navy of any seafaring nation the power and right to combat maritime crime anywhere on the high sea. Without being sentimental, what the Danish warship did was within its right and obligation. 

“There are procedures at sea. The Danish warship fired warning shots, but these guys allegedly fired back. Don’t forget that our territorial waters ends at 24 nautical miles and the shooting happened at 35 nautical miles, so the Danish warship acted in order according to internal law. The shooting did not happen within Nigeria’s territorial waters. It happened on the high sea.” 

On the whereabouts of the Deep Blue assets, expected to be manned by men of the Nigerian Navy, the Naval source said he was not aware of where they were. 

“As for the Deep Blue assets, I don’t know where they are. Maybe you should investigate where they are, but I don’t know anything about them,” the top naval source told the Nigerian Tribune exclusively. 

Efforts to get the NIMASA’s acting spokesman, Assistant Director Edward Osagie speak on the whereabouts of the Deep Blue assets proved abortive as messages sent to him were not responded to as of the time of filing in this report. 

However, NIMASA, after the shooting of four pirates by the Danish warship, issued a statement, saying the agency was fully collaborating with international partners to fight maritime crime.

Source: Nigerian Tribune