President Muhammadu Buhari has disclosed that Nigeria loses $26.6billion annually to piracy and sea robbery.
President Buhari disclosed this while commissioning the Falcon Eye system to boost maritime security.
The Pres* Commissions Falcon Eye System for Navyident, who was represented by the Vice President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, said the Falcon Eye system will enable the Nigerian Navy generate a comprehensive intelligence picture of activities within the 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 said the maritime industry occupies a prominent position in Nigeria’s vital economic interests and it encompasses activities ranging from fishing and resource exploration to marine research and shipping, among other endeavours.
“Of all these activities, shipping stands out as a critical link in Nigeria’s international trade engagements because it is the cheapest and most efficient means of moving large volumes of goods.
“Given our economic aspirations and our commitment to international trade, ensuring the security of shipping lanes within and proximate to our waters is in our national interest.
“In addition, Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources which are largely domiciled in our maritime environment remain the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy as it accounts for 55 percent of our GDP, 95 percent of our export earnings, and about 70 percent of government revenue,” he said.
He noted that the Falcon Eye system has the capacity to spot, chase and interdict maritime criminals quietly and efficiently.
“So the Falcon Eye system is a state-of-the-art surveillance facility that incorporates various sensors located along the nation’s enormous coastline, such 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.
“The integration of these sensors into the Falcon Eye system generates a real-time situational awareness of the activities of vessels in Nigerian maritime domain and some selected parts in the Gulf of Guinea,” he added.
He said the Falcon Eye System will serve as a force multiplier for the naval platforms tasked to effectively secure our maritime environment from external aggression.
“It will also enable the Nigerian Navy to effectively combat any maritime crimes that could disrupt the conduct of maritime trade.
“In recent years some key identified threats within Nigeria’s maritime environment have taken on increasingly more harmful dimensions to the our economy and even the safety of citizens and commercial entities who use the maritime domain these include, piracy, armed attacks on ships, kidnapping for ransom, crude oil theft, smuggling, as well as Illegal Unregulated and Unreported Fishing (IUU).
“It is estimated that Nigeria loses about $26.3 billion annually to various forms of criminality particularly piracy and sea robbery,” he said.
He said due to escalated risks in some of the nation’s maritime areas, insurance premiums for commercial vessels coming to the country have risen sharply making maritime trade an unattractive proposition .
“This underscores the need to enhance our maritime security architecture. Consequently, a critical contribution of the FALCON EYE System will be the provision of actionable intelligence for curbing maritime threats to our economy,” he stressed
He said his administration has demonstrated a clear commitment to building the capacity of the nations strategic institutions to secure our coastal waters and the precincts of our maritime neighbourhood.
He added that these initiatives have significantly increased our national capabilities in the areas of maritime surveillance and criminal interdiction within our territorial waters.
” It is clear that this administration has invested substantial resources in steadily building our sovereign capacity for total spectrum dominance of our maritime environment. I urge all the relevant strategic institutions and stakeholders to collaborate in the pursuit of this all important endeavour in the national interest.
Earlier in his remarks, the National Security Adviser, Major General Babagana Monguno (retired), said the project was borne out of the need to combat myriad of security challenges within the maritime domain such as kidnapping of oil workers, sea robbery and piracy, illegal oil bunkering and others.
He said the contract for the project was signed in 2014 and designed to provide Nigeria with an effective surveillance capability of her entire maritime domain particularly Nigeria’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
On training of personnel to mann the facility he said consist tactical training center and conduct of eight cycles of training for personnel in six training categories such as technical training and training the trainer.
The NSA said the project includes a main control center at the Naval Headquarters and maritime operetions intelligence centers and three regional command centers.
He stressed that the project is meant primarily to enhance the Nigerian Navy operetions,adding that intelligence gathered could be shared with other domestic and international maritime stakeholders.
“It is for this reason that the project has a maritime stakeholders cell here in the main control center to accommodate representatives of NIMASA,NPA,marine police and others,” he added.
He said the Faclon Eye will add value to the Navy’s maritime domain awareness capability and national security.
In his welcome address,the Chief of Naval Staff Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo said maritime threats necessitated the need for maritime domain awareness system thus the establishment of Falcon eye.
He said the facility covers the entire nation’s coastline and up to 200 nm seaward.
Buhari said the Nigerian Navy has recorded successes in her fight against illegalities at sea through the employment of the falcon eye facility.
The President noted that the Falcon eye system has led to the seizure of over 300,000 bags of foreign rice valued at N9 billion and over 500 suspects arrested.
He said the facility also led to the arrest of 70 oil tankers laden with stolen products valued at $1 billion dollars.
He also said that it also led to the arrest of 30 vessels engaged in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing as well as arrest of 50 pirates.