The Nigerian Navy has opened a maritime surveillance and intelligence fusion centre to monitor piracy and ship movements throughout the Gulf of Guinea from the Eastern Naval Command base in Calabar.
Speaking at the centre’s inauguration ceremony, Flag Officer Commanding the Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Joseph Aikhomu said the new facility, which is equipped with radar and satellite monitoring equipment, will enhance the navy’s intelligence gathering capacity as it continues to battle piracy and oil bunkering across the Gulf of Guinea.
He said the long-range surveillance facility will also shorten the relay of information from ships in distress and shorten the reaction time for security forces on rapid deployment and rescue missions.
“This ICT/Intelligence centre has state of the art facilities. From here we can easily monitor security situation in our zone. This centre is just like those found in the advanced countries. This centre is significant in many ways.
“It is also meant to teach our officers and men ICT knowledge, considering that the modern world is information-driven. We shall deploy it to full use,” Aikhomu said.
Rear Admiral Aikhomu said the navy will share the centre with other security and intelligence services for the training of personnel. The new maritime surveillance facility in Calabar is one of the many border security initiatives being implemented as Nigeria cracks down on crime, jihadist militancy and maritime insecurity.
The United States, which is already funding a number of joint border security projects with Nigeria, has pledged to donate more surveillance equipment to monitor the country’s porous borders in a broader crackdown on illegal immigration.
The Interior Minister Patrick Abba Moro said more than 19,000 illegal immigrants have been deported from the country since the latest resurgence of fighting between Boko Haram insurgents and the security forces.
Moro said because of porous borders, the ministry has no information on the number of illegal immigrants in the country. He said the US government will partly fund the acquisition of the border surveillance equipment while a Chinese company has tendered a bid for installation.
“It (the cost) is within the region of $2.6 million and it was tendered by a Chinese firm. But that money may be drastically reduced as the US government, which is helping us in fighting terrorism, has offered to provide some of the surveillance equipment which we will deploy to the borders,” Moro said.