By Eguono Odjegba
Amid increasing spate of the importation of arms and ammunition and other offensive military accessories, especially at a time of growing national security challenges, experts and concerned Nigerians have again urged the Federal Government to review the concession agreements granted private jetty owners to allow for security presence in the affected jetties.
The call was coming at the backdrop of the recent arrest of a ship load of arms and ammunition destined for Lagos by the South African authorities, coupled with seizures of offensive arms by Nigeria’s security agencies.
A maritime security expert, and former Senior Special Adviser to ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, Mr. Leke Oyewole, speaking on maritime matter, said arms seizure by the South African government might as well found its way into the country through unmanned private jetties; and tasked the federal government to revisit the private jetties agreement with a view to having the presence of security agencies in place, as a necessary check.
Oyewole said despite that South Africa has arrested the arms bearing vessel, the FGN should investigate the matter and identify those involved for possible prosecution.
He said, “first and foremost, investigations should explore ways of finding out the identity of the consignee. If we are to look at this perspective critically, how did the weapons in wrong hands in the country today, come in? The weapons in the hands of Boko Haram terrorists, herdsmen and others, how did they come into the country? Our maritime security and surveillance of our waterways in particular are flawed.
“We have only six ports which are well manned with security presence. Even the Customs goes out of their way at times to help nip in the bud importation of dangerous arms and ammunition into the country. But we have so many creeks and jetties scattered everywhere, many remain unmanned. These creeks and jetties lead to different towns and villages in the country.
“The arm laden ships could anchor on the sea and at night while smaller vessels and speedboats are used to evacuate its content into the country through these jetties and creeks. It is very unlikely that ships carrying dangerous weapons will discharge their contents at well manned ports like the sea and air ports.
“Although some might come in through our porous borders, but we should suspect our creeks and jetties more because many remain unmanned”, Oyewole added.
Also commenting, the President General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), Comrade Adewale Adeyanju said absence of security agencies and dockworkers at private jetties is not only a disservice to the nation but also a security threat. The union leader knocked the federal government for playing politics with national security, lamenting that the current status of private jetties is the result of “big men arrangement.”