Over 1,500 vessels has, so far, been apprehended by the Eastern Naval Command between January and October 2015, Rear Admiral Atiku Abdulkadir, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), has said.
Abdulkadir said the vessels include ships, barges and boats; carrying out illegal activities within the jurisdiction of the command.
He explained that while some of the arrested vessels have been destroyed, others have been handed over to the police and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) for prosecution.
According to him, about 2,000 men were also arrested along with the vessels, and have since been handed over to the police.
The FOC warned that anyone with criminal intentions should steer clear of Nigeria’s territorial waters as the navy has beefed up its operations to stem the tide of illegal oil bunkering and sea piracy.
He said, “We have been given express command by the Chief of the Naval Staff to train our men within a specific time and also reduce illegal activities in the Nigerian waterways, and Operation Mamaki is in line with that and we have done that in a very practical way by bringing six ships under the Eastern Naval Command to participate.”
The ships that took part in the exercise, according to Abdulkadir, included NNS Okpabana, NNS Thunder, NNS Centenary, NNS Andoni, NNS Makurdi and Nigerian Navy Helicopter 08.
The Commanding Officer said, “During the exercise, over 58 ships were investigated at sea “which shows how improved our capacities are and our preparedness to combat crime at sea, but, above that, this is to remind those who intend to carry out illegal activities to stay out of Nigerian territorial waters and look for other things to do”.
He said though the exercise took a toll on government finances as each of the six ships consumed at least 495,000 litres of diesel and 40 drums of engine oil and had about 200 men on board, the essence far outweighs the cost as the bulk of the nation’s economic resources comes from the seas and, as such, everything has to be done to protect the seas.
“The cost of the exercise notwithstanding, the Chief of the Naval Staff has assured that the navy will continue to do that to ensure the county’s waterways are adequately protected all year round,” Abdulkadir added.
By Patrick k Aigbokhan