By Gboyega Akinsanmi
The Nigerian Navy yesterday said it had changed its strategy and tactics in the fight against oil theft, piracy and illegal fishing, noting that the new approach would boost revenue that would accrue to the Federation Account.
The navy added that it established regional maritime awareness capability with all countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, with a view to effectively tackling the effects of maritime crimes in the region.
The new Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, disclosed the new approach yesterday during a courtesy visit to Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN), at the State House, Ikeja.
Jibrin, who led senior naval officers on the courtesy visit, acknowledged that fighting oil theft “is a mandate,” which he said President Goodluck Jonathan gave him when he was sworn in as the new naval chief.
He explained that apart from oil theft and illicit bunkering prevalent in Nigeria’s internal and territorial waters, the naval authority “is equally looking at illegal fishing, poaching, piracy and the likes.
“What we have decided to do is to establish the areas that are notorious for these criminal activities. Instead of wasting time to pursue shadow, we have decided to change our strategy and tactics of doing these jobs.”
He promised that Nigerians would see the result of what the naval forces “are doing by assessing the amount of money that is now accruing to the federal government for national development. It is when the federal government is saying yes that we can now see the positive effects of our action.
“It is then we can say we are achieving the desired result. With that, all I intend to do is to properly deploy our boats and vessels to areas we will establish as sore points and make sure that all would-be culprits, suspects or persons involved in criminality are brought to justice.”
He added that the maritime crimes had been going on in the Gulf of Guinea, acknowledging that the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea “are all concerned with the effects the crimes have on their development.
Jibrin cited an example of their security cooperation with the member-states, which he said, culminated in the arrest of MT Karela in the Port of Tema, in Ghana. He said the ship was involved in piracy off the coast of Angola. The Angola Navy called on the Nigeria Naval Headquarters.
“We deployed boats to go after the ships. The ship is MT Kerela. Right within our shore or waters, we mounted surveillance, kept them busy and kept them on their toes that they could not land on our habours. After sometime, they released the ship and the people that we were captured.
“We wanted to interrogate them. They refused to disclose their identities. What we did was to trail them to the Port of Tema. We alerted the Chief of Naval Staff in Ghana. They too deployed their boats accordingly and arrested MT Karela. And under our directives, MT Karela was arrested and is still under custody for further investigation in the Port of Tema in Ghana,” the naval chief explained.
In a reaction, Fashola lamented the arbitrary manner military officers acquired land in different parts of the state, noting that the land that they “did not buy from us, lands that are not allocated to them, they put their officers there and threaten every person that challenge them.
He said that was not the way “to go about acquiring land. If anyone wants land, they have to apply for it; they have to pay for it. In as much as military officers have their code of conducts within their barracks, they are equally members of our community and they are subjects to the laws of the state.”
Maritime Security News Note:
So it seems on the face of it that the Nigerian Navy plan to park up on a street corner and become a visible presence rather than chase crime. Will the strategy work, or will it drive the pirates and criminals elsewhere in the Gulf of Guinea? That’s what has tended to happen historically.
Also of note are the Vice Admiral’s comments about the MT Kerala still being held in custody in Ghana. Reuters reported that the ship had been returned to Angolan authorities on February 25th…