Worried by the unabated sea pirate attacks which have resulted in constant fears and loss of several lives on the waterways, Chairman of the Community Development Committee of Bille Kingdom, Dr Somieari Isaac, has pleaded with the government to deploy the Navy to station in the New Calabar and Sombriero Rivers to check criminality on the waterways.
Making the appeal in a chat with The Tide, last Monday, in Port Harcourt, the CDC Chairman noted that several months after the Governor of the state, Nyesom Wike, and the Chairman of DELGA, Dr Tony Philmoore, launched the ‘Operation Sting’ security outfit, the community is yet to see a single gunboat patrolling the waterways.
Three persons are feared dead when gunmen suspected to be sea pirates in the early hours of Saturday attacked three passengers boats en-route Port Harcourt from Billie in Degema Local Government Area of Rivers State.
Eyewitness account had it that the gunmen, who attacked the boats separately along the route, also carted away properties belonging to passengers.
A Norway-based shipping company says that nine of its employees have been abducted from one of its vessels while it was moored off the coast of Benin in West Africa.
Shipping firm J.J. Ugland said the cargo ship, the Bonita, was attacked on Saturday by pirates 15km (9 miles) off the coast.
The crew’s identity and nationality have not been made public, but the shipping firm said the rest of the crew moved the vessel into the Port of Cotonou in Benin.
The ship was carrying a cargo of gypsum, a mineral commonly used as fertiliser, which was destined for Benin, the firm said.
While piracy has decreased world wide, West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea remains notorious for abductions by armed groups who usually demand ransoms for the safe return of victims.
Several abductions have been reported in the region in recent months, including eight crew members taken from a German-owned vessel off Cameroon in August, and 10 Turkish sailors off the coast of Nigeria in July.
A five-day combined naval exercise has been flagged off in Nigerian waters. The maritime exercise, codenamed: “Grand African Nemo (Navy exercise for maritime operations) involves the participation of four Nigerian Navy ships and a helicopter.
The Exercise, being coordinated by the Nigerian Navy, according to a statement, Wednesday, by the naval spokesman, Commodore Sueman Dahun,” is aimed at supporting the efforts of regional navies to counter criminal activities in the maritime domain through different operational modes of planned exercises.”
A group pushing for security of shipping services in the country has petitioned the National Assembly over the pronouncement by the Nigerian Ports Authority, (NPA), instructing shipping operators to stop paying for personalised security services offered in the Secured Ancourage Area, (SAA) operated by the Nigerian Navy in collaboration with private firm, Ocean Marine Solutions (OMS) Limited.
The group, under the aegis of “Association of Professionals for Safety in Shipping in Nigeria,” APOSSIN, noted that the directive was not only ill-advised but also will be counter-productive, stressing that NPA does not have the authority to make such pronouncement on an arrangement by another agency of government to deliver on its mandate. The SAA is outside the port limits and hence not under the administrative control of the NPA. Security of the nation’s maritime domain statutorily rests on the Nigerian Navy. NPA by the pronouncement is interfering with the functions of the Nigerian Navy, a move that must be condemned by all well-meaning Nigerians.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibot-Ete Ekwe Ibas said that for incidences of oil theft, sea piracy and pipeline vandalism to be effectively tackled, the Nigerian Navy would need additional operational vessels.
Ibas said this during a budget defence with the House of Representatives committee on navy.
Ocean Marine Solution Limited (OMSL) has faulted the claim by the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) that the Secure Anchorage Area (SSA) manned by it, in collaboration with the Nigerian Navy, constituted a threat to national security.
A Secure Anchorage Area is an area outside the Lagos port that the Nigerian Navy, together with OMSL, has defined as a secure place where vessels can anchor safely from the threat of pirate attacks.