30 May, 2013
In the wake of the recent piracy attacks in Nigeria’s maritime domain, the Nigerian Navy (NN) Wednesday warned pirates to desist from their nefarious activities or face the consequences.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command (WNC), Rear Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, made this disclosure during the ongoing 57th anniversary of the NN, held at Beecroft, Apapa, Lagos. Also, as part of the activities earmarked to celebrate the anniversary, which coincided with the Democracy Day celebrations, the navy took over 350 civilians on a sea trip.
The event, which was held at the grounds of Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Beecroft, one of the units under the WNC and commanded by Commodore Chris Ezekobe, saw a large number of civilians gracing the occasion. The civilians were taken on the sea trip on NNS Makurdi, NNS Obula, two Shaldag and Andoni ships. The ships were escorted by the Special Boat Service (SBS) of the navy led by its commander, Lieutenant Commander Kola Omopariola, who also led his team to perform special demonstration for the civilians when the ships berthed.
According to Ibas, in pursuance of the mandate of President Goodluck Jonathan to the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, the command had already made several arrests of oil thieves. Three weeks ago, the men of the WNC arrested four Beninese for illegal bunkering and recovered the stolen products. The suspects were arrested around SBN, along Atlas Cove, an area known for acts of illegality, including illegal bunkering of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) pipeline in that axis, with jerry cans loaded with petroleum products. Some of those arrested were part of the over 40 ships arrested in Nigerian maritime domain in the last eight months as revealed by Ezeoba during one of such forum targeted at fighting criminality at sea.
Again, bearing in mind the overview of the strategic elements of Nigeria’s maritime environment, which encapsulates over 5,700 oil wells, 112 flow stations, 16 gas plants, 126 production platforms, six floating production storage offloading (FPSO) platforms and 13 crude oil terminals, the navy stressed its readiness to protect them from criminals. While adding that the command would not relent in cleaning up the waterways and protecting Nigeria’s oil facilities at sea, Ibas said the essence of the sea trip was to give opportunities to civilians to see the navy and how it operates.
He also said ‘Operation Prosperity’, a joint maritime patrol between the NN and Benin Republic set up to combat maritime crimes in the Gulf of Guinea, was yielding tremendous results by protecting the Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) of both countries.
Corroborating the FOC, the Command Information Officer, Lieutenant Commander Jerry Omodara, said the navy would always take the general public to sea because it is their (the public’s) navy, adding that the essence of the trip was for them to be acquainted with the operations of the navy. He said: “On board NNS Obula, we had over 200 civilians and this does not include those on board the four other ships who are part of this exercise. At least, it afforded us the opportunity to bring our public closer.”