President Muhammadu Buharii on Thursday, flagged off the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure also known as the Deep Blue Project anchored by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA).
The well attended event took place in Apapa, Lagos.
President Buhari inaugurated the $195 million project after commissioning the Lagos-Ibadan rail project, also in Lagos.
He said the flag-off of the Lagos-Ibadan rail project will create employment through new businesses and wealth creation and make Nigerian ports the first choice for import and export businesses for landlocked countries.
The Deep Blue project is being implemented by NIMASA, in conjunction with the Armed Forces, the Nigerian Police, the Department of State Services, and other security agencies
The President described the project as the benchmark for maritime security among nations in the West and Central African region.
The project, he said, was to show the determination of his administration to stem the cycle of criminalities on the nation’s territorial waters and end piracy in the Gulf of Guinea
Buhari added that the project was initiated to foster Nigerian security architecture within the nation’s territorial waters and beyond.
Buhari said: “Deep Blue Project is coming at a time the globe has become concerned about piracy and maritime crime in the Gulf of Guinea. This project displays the concerted efforts to guarantee security and it is a demonstration of the government’s resolve to diversify the nation’s economy and harness Blue economy potentials.
“This vital line establishes an end-to-end logistic supply chain in railway transport within its short corridor, Lagos – Ibadan, as goods to the hinterland would now be transported by rail directly from the Apapa port quayside straight to the Inland Container Depot located in Ibadan from where it can be distributed to other parts of the country
“The connection through rail would position Nigerian ports as the choice for import and export business of the people of landlocked Niger Republic”
While commending the Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Defence for making the project a reality, Buhari directed all maritime stakeholders, operators and port users to collaborate with the Federal Government agencies operations at the port in securing the nation’s maritime domain and promote the safety of seafarers in the country.
He noted that with the coming into force, the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offences (SPOMO) Act, the country has been able to prosecute 10 pirates by enforcing the Act.
In his welcome address, the Minister of Transportation, Mr Rotimi Ameachi pointed out that financial and maintenance sustainability of the entire project would be developed by a committee saddled with the responsibility.
The minister expressed delight that the assets of the project have already been deployed to guarantee safety at Lagos Secure Anchorage Area (SAA) after the private security outfits managing operations were banned.
He commended the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces Service Chiefs for their contributions throughout the preliminary stages of the project and encouraged them to keep supporting the project
Also, the Minister of Defence, Major General (rtd) Bashir Magashi, said with the project, safety is guaranteed in the maritime sector and added that it would attract Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) in maritime domain.
He described the C4i intelligence centre as the heart of the project, adding that with the operation of C4i and the entire project, piracy in the nation’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the entire maritime space would be totally addressed.
Magashi stressed the need to make judicious use of the project assets and advised that proper maintenance be provided to ensure the benefits of the project are fully optimised.
Preparatory to the launch, the Maritime Security Unit (MSU) of the Deep Blue Project, comprising personnel from the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police, and Department of State Services, (DSS) conducted simulation exercises for the event on the land, air, and sea assets of the Project to confirm their readiness for full deployment.
The project was conceived in 2017 and is fortified with land, sea, and air assets to comprehensively tackle maritime security threats.
The occasion was witnessed by a galaxy of very eminent personalities -they include Ministers of Information and Culture Lai Mohammed, his Youths and Sport Development colleague, Sunday Dare, Minister of State for Transportation Gbemisola Saraki, and the Speaker, House of Representatives Femi Gbajabiamila.
Others are the Chairman of Governors Forum and Governor of Ekiti State Dr Kayode Fayemi, his colleagues from Lagos, Ogun and Oyo States Babajide Sanwo-Olu, Seyi Makinde and Dapo Abiodun among others.