Personnel of the Western Naval Command (WNC) of the Nigerian Navy at the weekend foiled an attempt by 10 suspected pirates to hijack a refined petroleum-laden vessel sailing into Nigeria.
The pirates, who were said to have been in two boats, had intercepted the foreign ship, MT IMAS, on the waters within the WNC area of responsibility.
The gang had already succeeded in overpowering and boarding the ship, when the naval ship stormed the area and arrested one of the suspects.
THISDAY gathered that the pirates had opened fire to resist arrest but were overpowered by the superior firing power of the navy.
Confirming the incident, the WNC Flag Officer Commanding, Rear Admiral Jonathan Ango, said the naval vessel was able to respond speedily because they were also deployed for the elections.
He said: “As part of our preparations and actions for the just conducted election, we deployed our ships to cover the inland waterways and also to protect the ships and patrol the territorial water.
“Fortunately for us, one of the ships, MT IMAS, raised the alarm around 0120 that it was under attack by pirates, and one of our patrol boats that was close by went immediately to her rescue.
“They saw two boats with suspected pirates and there was an exchange of fire. We managed to dislodge the pirates from the attack.
“We injured a few of them and we also captured one of them whom we brought here for proper investigation.
“Their intention was to board the vessel and either kidnap the foreigners on board or steal the products, or take the ship as hostage and sell the product somewhere.
“But the alarm was raised through the distress channel which we all have, and foiled their attempt. This is part of the measures we are taking to assure Lagosians and Nigerians in general that the Nigerian navy is very much ready for the security of the waterways.
“And if there are any miscreants or hoodlums who think they can use the waterways to cause any harm or damage, we want to let them know the navy is very much ready and up to the task to prevent them from doing that.”
In his confession, the arrested suspect identified as Shola Sama, denied ever being a pirate. Rather, he said he was a businessman who was going about his business when he was arrested.
Maritime Security News Note:
Unfortunately, This Day declines to date or time the incident however, we have learned from other sources that the Navy was notified of the incident at 0120 LT on Thursday when one of their ships was attacked by the pirates.
As is often the case, the majority of pirates appear to have been able to flee despite the superior fire power of the Navy. They live to hijack another day…
That this is the first high profile attack since the presidential election is not as quite as interesting as the fact that it came ahead of the state governors’ elections. According to media reports, Jonathan’s APC won 19 of the 28 posts including those all important oil-rich ones. It will be interesting to see how this affects President Buhari’s efforts to prevent piracy and oil theft.