By Isaac Anumihe
Amidst growing concern on the security lapse on the Nigeria’s waters, the $9 million helicopter, used by the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) for research and rescue has been rotting away at the Nigerian Navy Air Station, Ojo,Lagos.
The Augusta AW 139 Helicopter, which has a capacity for 10 crews, including the pilot and co-pilot, was procured to boost Nigeria’s capacity to secure her maritime domain.
It was gathered that three years ago, the helicopter was sent to the Nigerian navy station for repairs. Even as pirates’ activities have intensified in the last 10 years on the Nigerian waters, the relevant authorities have not deemed it necessary to fix the aircraft.
According to reports, paucity of funds is the reason the helicopter has not been fixed. A source said: “My main concern is that the agency itself will suffer as a consequence of this continuing delay of the process. The worst thing that can happen here is that the service to the nation will suffer as a consequence of all these delays.”
Some ship owners who prefer anonymity revealed that the absence of the Augusta AW 139 helicopter accounts, in no small measure, for the destruction of pirates on the coastal waters. The activities of sea robberies in the nation’s coastal waters had cost the Federal Government billions of dollars with the coast of Bayelsa becoming the hottest spot in the maritime domain. The situation had forced local fishermen and fishing trawler companies to reduce their activities in Nigeria. So far, NIMASA has not indicated interest to repair the aircraft. Instead, the Federal Government on October 1, 2017, awarded a security contract valued $195 million (about N60 billion) to an Israeli firm, HLSI Security Systems and Technologies, to procure security equipment and train Nigerian security personnel to tackle crimes on the nation’s waterways.