July 16, 2021
By Michael Olatunbosun
Claim: Nigeria’s Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, recently claimed that the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent between €300 million and €400 million on equipment for fighting insecurity in the maritime sector, and alleged that the equipment purchased is nowhere to be found.
Verdict: There is insufficient data to validate this claim by the Minister.
On Thursday the 10th of June 2021, Nigeria officially launched the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, also known as the Deep Blue Project. The project displays some of the $195 million of equipment with the primary objective of securing Nigerian waters along the Gulf of Guinea and the country’s oil infrastructure with a coordinated combination of land, sea, and air forces. According to a statement by Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, Nigeria’s Maritime Security Unit (MSU) of the Deep Blue Project, comprised personnel from the Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Air Force, Nigeria Police, and Department of State Services, and their goal was to demonstrate their preparedness for full deployment to fight the ongoing menace of piracy, mostly emerging from the Nigeria's Niger Delta region. It was during the official inauguration of the Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure in Nigeria (also called the Deep Blue Project) at the ENL Terminal, Apapa Port, Lagos, the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, alleged that President Olusegun Obasanjo administration spent between €300 million and €400 million on equipment for fighting insecurity in the maritime sector, but that the equipment so allegedly purchased disappeared. He said: “This war, under President Obasanjo; they spent between €300 million and €400 million to buy the same equipment we have bought and they have disappeared.”
History of the Deep Blue Project
The Deep Blue Project (DBP) was first initiated in 2017 by the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi. One of the first steps involved the Nigerian Government approving a maritime security contract with Israeli firm HLSI Security Systems and Technologies Limited for asset procurement and leasing. In 2020, Amaechi requested further funds to hire fast intercept vessels for one year, claiming the $195 million already approved for the same purpose had been put on hold due to COVID-19. In total, Nigeria has allocated a tenth of its defence budget to the DBP and is expected to deploy an increased range of assets to tackle maritime insecurity including two Special Mission Vessels, seventeen Fast Interceptor Boats, two Special Mission Aircraft, three helicopters, four unmanned aerial vehicles and sixteen armoured vehicles. Furthermore, to bolster intelligence gathering and sharing efforts, a command, control, computer communication and information centre (C4i) has also been set up in Kirikiri, Lagos.
In a March 29 2021 article, Swim together or sink alone: African states unite to confront pirate threat writer Shola Lawal reported that ‘Nigeria’s Deep Blue Project (DBP), launched this year, is cautiously inspiring hope. The ambitious $195 million project aims to purchase assets like fast-intervention vessels, build interagency command centers for the country’s naval and port authorities, and train security forces.’
Recorded efforts by Previous Administrations
Chijioke Alozie reports in his seminal paper, Exploring Contemporary Sea Piracy in Nigeria, the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea that the first serious effort in this area by any administration in Nigeria was when then President Yar’ Adua (2007-2010) appointed a Federal Minister of Niger Delta region to provide oversight into projects and people’s complaints, and above all, to be the Federal Government’s presence in the region. Successive governments have followed the historic pace set by Yar’Adua, by the appointment of a Federal Minister of Niger Delta. There is no record of purchase of any security hardware but efforts were essentially directed at pacifying the militants at the time. But in an attempt to fight maritime piracy, the government, in August 2014, appointed a one-time Niger-Delta warlord from Bayelsa State, General Boyloaf, as leader of a maritime security outfit in his home state of Bayelsa. It is worth remembering that Boyloaf once led an aggressive attack on a Shell oil platform 120 km (74 miles) offshore. In 2014 Boyloaf was quoted to have said, “the government was having serious security challenges in the creeks. They chose me to deal with it as the creeks are my terrain. I was born in the creeks, I fought against the government in the creeks, and I will now use that knowledge to hunt the pirates.”
Verifying Minister Amaechi
In all our investigation into the claim made by Mr Rotimi Amaechi, the Transportation Minister, there was no available record or document to indicate that the Obasanjo administration purchased security or military equipment to combat piracy on the Gulf of Guinea other than the October 2005 setting up of a Naval Base in Bonny. In all our findings, there was no budgetary allocation for the specific purpose of purchasing equipment, let alone a mention of spending of between €300 million and €400.
Attempts were made to get Mr Amaechi to substantiate his claim with evidence. Text message sent to his phone number was not replied and repeated calls to the line were not answered. This writer also sent an email to the minister but got no response.
There is no sufficient record to back the claim by Minister Rotimi Amaechi that the Obasanjo administration spent between €300 million and €400 million to buy equipment for safeguarding the maritime sector.
The researcher produced this fact-check per Splash FM 105.5, Ibadan, with the Dubawa 2021 Fellowship partnership, to facilitate the ethos of truth in journalism and enhance media literacy in the country.