Nigeria loses an estimated $26.3 billion annually in the maritime industry to piracy, sea robbery, among other forms of maritime crimes. This has, to an extent, escalated risks for maritime workers and led to a rise in insurance premiums, making maritime trade an unattractive proposition for Nigerians.
Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s vice president, made the disclosure during the commissioning of Falcon Eye Project, a strategic maritime surveillance facility that incorporates various sensors located along the nation’s coastline, held at the Naval headquarters in Abuja.
Osinbajo, who represented President Muhammadu Buhari at the event, said some threats within Nigeria’s maritime environment had in recent years taken more harmful dimensions to the economy and even the safety of citizens and commercial entities which used the maritime domain. Prominent among the threats identified by the vice president include, piracy, armed attacks on ships, kidnapping for ransom, crude oil theft, smuggling, as well as illegal unregulated and unreported fishing.
In this light, Osinbajo stressed that securing the shipping lanes was crucial to Nigeria’s economic interests, one of the major reasons for the establishment of the Falcon Eye Project.
Dwelling on the relevance of the project, the country’s number two citizen noted that the maritime industry occupies a prominent position in the matrix of Nigeria’s vital economic interests and it encompasses activities ranging from fishing and resource exploration to marine research and shipping among other endeavours.
He also explained that the Falcon Eye System, which includes such facilities as radars, long range electro optic systems with thermal or night vision capability, automatic identification system receivers, weather stations and marine very high frequency radios for communication, will serve as a force multiplier for the country’s naval platforms tasked to effectively secure the maritime environment from external aggression. He added that it will also enable the Nigerian Navy to effectively combat any maritime crimes that could disrupt the conduct of maritime trade.
“This will enable the Nigerian Navy to generate a comprehensive intelligence picture of activities within our maritime environment for further analysis before, in appropriate cases, dispatching a Nigerian Navy ship for interdiction, investigation, and or subsequent arrest of erring vessels,” he noted.
Osinbajo further averred that Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources, which are largely domiciled in the maritime environment, remain the mainstay of the country’s economy as it accounts for 55 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), 95 percent of export earnings, and about 70 percent of government revenue.
In his remarks, Awwal Gambo, Nigeria’s chief of naval staff, said that the significance of the event arose out of the need for national maritime security architecture that would leverage modern technology to enhance the safeguard of the immense hydrocarbon, living and other mineral resources in the nation’s maritime domain.
Nigeria’s maritime environment, according to him, is strategic for the country’s survival, prosperity and the sustenance of its preeminent position in the comity of nations.