The current surge in piracy has raised doubt over Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA)’s ability to end piracy on Nigerian waters as promised by June 2018. BAYO AKOMOLAFE reports
Despite the Federal Government’s approval of $186 million to secure Nigerian waterways and ports, pirates are still operating in and off the coast of Nigeria targeting foreign shipping crews for ransom.
The fund is meant for the acquisition of new military aircraft, patrol boats and armoured personnel carriers that will be deployed for anti-piracy operations.
With the equipment, the NIMASA last June boasted that piracy and sea robbery would be reduced to zero by June 2018.
Director General, Dr Dakuku Peterside, said that within one year, the country’s waters would be secured from sea robbers.
He noted: “We have before now been facing challenges of piracy, sea robbery within our maritime domain and we have given our words to Nigeria that by next year June 2018, they should hold us responsible for this sea robbery in our maritime domain.
“From next year June, we will move from wherever we are to zero per cent non-piracy on our waterways. That is the first commitment to Nigerian people and we are working day and night everyday in putting things right every day.”
However, four months to the deadline, there is no sign that the agency would be able to keep to this promise as menace of piracy is on the increase.
For instance, in the last seven months, there has been incessant attacks by robbers on Nigeria waters.
Catalogue of attacks
Last July, IMB said that pirates kidnapped five crew members from a cargo ship, a Panama-flagged, MV Oya 1, off the coast of Nigeria, when a group of armed pirates boarded a general cargo ship underway around 15nautical miles South West of Bonny Island.
Also in August, two personnel of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, (NSCDC), Nigeria Police Force and a civilian were ambushed and killed by suspected sea pirates along the Okoron creek in Southern Ijaw Local Government Area of the state.
Also, last September, sea pirates kidnapped five people from a ship near Parrot Island, south of the Cross River state capital, Calabar.
Within the same period, security operatives on escort mission were attacked by sea pirates along the Ekebiri waterways in Bayelsa State.
Also in October, a container ship, Demeter, was attacked by pirates at south of Port Harcourt while en route Malabo Equatorial Guinea to Monrovia.
A bulk carrier, Venus Bay, was also attacked and boarded by armed pirates last November at Bight of Bon
Similarly, in December, IMB report said that 10 crew were kidnapped from a bulk carrier off the coast of Niger Delta.
The trend continued in January 2018, when 10 crew were kidnapped on board MT Barrett but were released after ransom was paid.
Also, Greek bulk carrier, Skylight, was attacked by pirates in Bight of Biafra, south of Brass, with10 crew. The latest attack was from a Greek bulk carrier, Marine Express, with 22 Indian crew on board.
Already, the agency’s multi-million dollar world-class strategic satellite surveillance system has been out of operation for over one year.
The equipment has the capacity of detecting movements and activities of ships, boats and other crafts operating within the nation’s maritime domain with a reconnaissance back up of a functional helicopter for patrol, pursuit and interdiction.
Besides, the anti-piracy bill before the national assembly has not been passed into law. The bill is aimed at criminalising piracy and all maritime crimes in the country’s maritime domain with attendant punishment enshrined in the Nigerian legal framework.
It would be recalled that in 2017, IMB said that a total of 180 incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships were recorded.
It noted that 136 vessels were boarded, while there were 22 attempted attacks, 16 vessels fired upon and six vessels hijacked.
Worried by the trend, Peterside said that Nigeria had installed satellite surveillance systems, coastal radar systems, and the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) among others to monitor the coastal waters.
The director general noted that the implementation of an integrated national surveillance and waterways protection solution with command and control infrastructure in the agency was part of the government’s deep blue contract to enhance security in the Gulf of Guinea.
Government should put technology in place to fully tackle the menace of pirates on Nigerian waters, which has remained a hot spot.
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