BY EVELYN USMAN
LAGOS — The Nigerian Navy has arrested six persons, among them, a student of the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, FCFMT, who were allegedly parading themselves as naval personnel, in Apapa area of Lagos.
Also, the navy has described as untrue, reports that its personnel shot students of FCFMT during a recent clash in Victoria Island.
The suspects, clad in naval uniform, were reportedly arrested in a hideout around Marine Road, Apapa.
Briefing newsmen on their arrest, Commander, NNS Beecroft, Commodore Chris Ezekobe, said the arrest which was the second in the last one month, became necessary following activities of some persons using navy uniform to harass people within Lagos metropolis.
He said on May 26, 2013, there was a fracas between two ratings and a student of FCFMT identified as Abayomi Ajose, in Victoria Island, where a rating and the student sustained injury. He said the student was taken to the naval dockyard, Victoria Island, for treatment, an action his colleagues said was to be an arrest.
Ezekobe said: “The students came in large numbers, barricaded the Ahmadu Bello Way, threw stones and other missiles at the senior Naval officers’ quarters. This action caused a lot of damage to the areas, as a result of which a detachment of OP MESSA was invited to disperse them. But they continued to cause more damage while obstructing traffic along the major road. It was then the security team shot into the air, resulting in a stampede that injured three students.”
Board of inquiry
Following the incident, he said a board of inquiry comprising the Navy, the Divisional Police Officer in-charge of Victoria Island, Special Assistant on security to the Eti-osa Local Government and Deputy Provost, Academics of the FCFMT was set up to investigate the cause of the fracas.
However, the committee’s findings, he said, revealed an alleged high rate of atrocities being committed at the school and the approval of a cadet corps for Merchant Navy training as well as facilitating issuance of Navy identity cards to the students.
He said: “The students have among them a Commanding Officer and other officers that appear in uniforms of the Nigerian Navy personnel. They dress in Naval uniform which are often used in committing atrocities all over Lagos.”
Consequently, a raid was carried out at the school premises last month, during which 53 persons were arrested, with the recovery of a tailor shop where naval uniforms and accoutrements were sewn.
We are Merchant Navy —Suspects
But the suspects told newsmen that they were Merchant Navy personnel. When asked why they were clad in Naval uniform, they claimed that was the uniform given to them by their authorities, adding also that the eagle and inscription, MN, on their caps and badges differentiated them from Naval personnel.
According to Alao, one of the suspects, “I am a Merchant Navy. I passed out from academy, that is Oceanography. I am a fourth engineer on board a vessel. My last vessel was MT Soloshine, a tanker vessel.
“This problem is national and it’s been a long standing one. I have been all over the world. Merchant Navy and the Navy work hand-in-hand but it’s not so in Nigeria. We are not of defence navy. One major thing that differentiates us is the gun. While the defence Navy handles weapons, we don’t.”
But on further observation, it was discovered that the rank he was wearing was same as that of a Seaman in the Nigerian Navy.