The Nigerian government has approved a 186 million emergency budget to fund the acquisition of new military aircraft, patrol boats and armoured personnel carriers that will be deployed on anti-piracy operations.
Details of the planned expenditure were released by Transportation minister Rotimi Amaechi last week when he addressed a conference that was held in Abuja to discuss the implementation of government plans for maritime and port security.
Amaechi said to secure Nigerian waterways and ports, President Muhammadu Buhari had approved a $186 million budget for the acquisition of surveillance and security assets that include three helicopters, three fixed wing aircraft and twelve patrol boats.
At least 20 amphibious Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) will also be acquired to equip ground forces for operations in rugged and riverine coastal areas.
“In the next three months, all of these assets will be deployed to help fight piracy in our waters,” Amaechi said.
The inland marine security project involves the dredging of the entire 572 km stretch of the Niger River to stimulate trade and open it up for navy patrols.
The minister said most rivers in Nigeria were economic and trade routes which needed to be secured to prevent the high prevalence of crimes such as piracy, militancy and kidnapping.
The government has also plans to acquire at least one training vessel to re-equip the Maritime Academy of Nigeria (MAN) for localised training of marine professionals and sailors.
According to a report by maritime security monitoring project Oceans Beyond Piracy (OBP), there were 95 armed attacks on ships in West Africa in 2016, up from 54 in 2015.
Pirates operating in waters off-the-coast of Nigeria were increasingly focused on kidnapping foreign shipping crews for ransom. At least 96 crew members were taken hostage in 2016, up from 44 in 2015.