From Molly Kelete, Abuja

President Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday said Nigeria loses about $26.3 billion annually to various forms of criminality particularly piracy and sea robbery.

Buhari disclosed this while performing the inauguration of Falcon Eye Project, a Nigerian Navy’s Strategic Maritime Surveillance System, at the Naval Headquarters, Abuja.

Represented by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Buhari said that securing Nigeria’s shipping lanes was crucial to the nation’s economic interests.

“Why is this project so important to us as a nation?

“The maritime industry occupies a prominent position in the matrix of our 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.’’

According to him, Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources which are largely domiciled in the maritime environment remain the mainstay of Nigeria’s economy. “It accounts for 55 per cent of our GDP, 95 per cent of our export earnings, and about 70 per cent of government revenue.The president said that in recent years, some threats within Nigeria’s maritime environment have taken more harmful dimensions to the economy and even the safety of citizens and commercial entities which used 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. “On account of the escalated risks in some of our maritime areas, insurance premiums for commercial vessels coming to these areas 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.’’

Buhari said that his administration had demonstrated a clear commitment to building the capacity of Nigeria’s strategic institutions to secure its coastal waters and the precincts of its maritime neighbourhood.

*The SUN newspaper