In a year of unabated insecurity in the Gulf of Guinea, one of the most welcomed maritime security-oriented acts of 2019 was Nigeria’s establishment of its Deep Blue Project. The Integrated National Security and Waterways Protection Infrastructure, otherwise known as the Deep Blue Project (DBP), aims to comprehensively address insecurity and criminality in Nigeria’s territorial waters and exclusive economic zone. The means of the DBP involve the acquisition of assets, (e.g., unmanned aerial vehicles and fast intervention vessels), development of infrastructure (e.g., new command and control centers), interagency information-sharing, and enhanced training of security services, among other things. According to the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), between August 2019 and June 2020, 80 percent of the necessary assets had been delivered and the Command, Control, Computer Communication, and Information Centre (C4i) was officially launched at NIMASA’s base in Kirikiri, Lagos.
The DBP is estimated to have cost a whopping $195 million dollars and will oversee all maritime security matters in Nigeria. On June 24, NIMASA Director General Dr. Bashir Jamoh provided updates on the state of the DBP. First, all anchorages in Nigeria will now fall under the DBP’s jurisdiction, including the Secure Anchorage Area. This is designed to reduce the need for private security in Nigerian waters, which increases the cost of shipping for goods imported into the country. Additionally, NIMASA and the Nigerian Port Authority (NPA) have made provisions for enhanced interagency cooperation through expanded information-sharing. Specifically, the two entities have agreed to link the NPA’s Command, Control and Intelligence Centre (C3i) and NIMASA’s C4i to avoid duplication in responses and costs, coordinate removal of wreckage and debris that hinder navigation, and better assist the Nigerian Navy in mitigation and rapid response efforts.
Why the DBP Matters
The DBP is welcome news for a myriad of reasons, most notably for tackling piracy and armed robbery and illicit trades in the region. With 98 total incidents of piracy and armed robbery occurring in West and Central Africa in 2019, most of which were concentrated off Brass and Bonny, Nigeria, the DBP has the potential to strengthen Nigerian counterpiracy efforts. These efforts, if undertaken in conjunction with coastal welfare development efforts in the Niger Delta, could significantly mitigate piracy and armed robbery in the broader region. Additionally, with better domestic interagency coordination and intelligence-sharing between NIMASA, NPA, and the Nigerian Navy, illicit products could see their networks disrupted through enhanced interdiction efforts. Nigeria’s status as a major transit, origin, and destination country for numerous illicit trades (e.g., wildlife and narcotics trafficking) means that any improvement in interdiction capacity would have reverberating regional impacts. Thus, the DBP demonstrates the utility of harmonizing and delineating operational responsibilities between domestic maritime law enforcement and security agencies. If successful, the DBP could become a regional model for boosting maritime enforcement capacity.
While it is not perfect, the DBP is a laudable initiative that is sure to have impacts on maritime security in the broader Gulf of Guinea for years to come. The next few years in particular will test the resilience of the project. If it is able to withstand these tests and mitigate the security issues that arise from them, the DBP could be a useful framework for the reference of other West and Central African countries desiring to strengthen their maritime security infrastructure and inter-agency cooperation.