By Ediri Ejoh
THE increasing spate of illegalities in Nigeria waters is becoming a major source of worry to the Nigerian Navy because of its adverse effects on the nation’s economy. To this end, the Navy authorities have called for collaboration of stakeholders to reducing the scourge.
The position of the Nigerian Navy was made known in Lagos recently at the sixth Ships & Ports Annual National Essay Competition Prize presentation Ceremony by the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Western naval Command, Rear Admiral Amin Ikioda, who was represented by the Command Intelligence Officer, Commander Usman Bugaje.
Ikioda said the activities of crude oil theft often involve the movement of huge cash through the banks and this could be a veritable source of intelligence if suitably harnessed and provided to relevant agencies.
According to him, there is the need for government to further monitor commercial banks in their implementation of the existing anti-money laundering policy.
“In this regard, there should also continue to be close liaison with other security agencies, especially the Department of State Services,” he added.
He called the Federal Government’s assistance for the nation’s security agencies through capacity building and equipment procurement in order to boost their capacity to combat the scourge of criminalities in the waters.
According to him, “Greater attention must be made to enhance the capacity of the Nigerian Navy through the acquisition of more functional ships, boats, offshore patrol vessels (OPV), helicopters and back-up facilities to enable them perform their statutory role of hunting down sea pirates and smugglers.”
The Naval Chief added that it was during one of the meetings, the inadequacy of naval platforms to cover the West Maritime Area of Nigeria, was identified as a factor militating against the desired results in the fight against piracy.
He noted that “with new acquisition of vessels, the Nigerian Navy increased its patrol activities especially around potential areas of pirate’s attacks.”
“Also, it was opined that Naval personnel could be deployed onboard non Naval vessels for escort duties to deter would be pirates and repel any attack for economic prosperity,” he declared.
He further stated that intelligence gathering shall be at the core of the piracy operations to cultivate informants in conjunction with own operatives in order to promptly report the activities of both real and potential pirates.
“Information thus received would be processed for further monitoring and or sharing action. It is certain that this would require a relatively huge financial outlay because the inducement to be given to the informants should be attractive enough compared to what they would ordinarily derive from crude oil theft.”
Continuing, Bugaja however, stated, “surveillance would be aimed at monitoring the activities of vessels suspected to be laden with stolen Nigeria’s crude oil with a view to effecting arrest.
This task calls for prudence in deployment in order to obviate the challenge of inadequate operational platforms. Thus, the procedure to be adopted shall involve the deployment of own helicopters to investigate and report suspicious vessels at sea followed by the scrambling of own ships to interrogate and possibly arrest.