Nigerian economy depends on the sea for about 90 per cent import and export, which is often threatened by piracy, robbery, illegal oil bunkering and others. TARKAA DAVID, in this report, takes a cursory look at the Navy’s effort in protecting our maritime space.
Nigeria’s maritime domain with networks of oil and gas installations and associated shipping, are often threatened by crimes such as piracy, sea robbery, crude oil theft, illegal oil bunkering, hostage taking and insurgency.
Nigeria has a coastline of 420nm and 200nm exclusive economic zone (EEZ), which translates to 84,000 square nautical miles (nm). The nation’s maritime area interest spans a total coastline of 2,874 nm.
Speaking at a media dialogue in Abuja, the Nigerian Navy noted that following its activities, there has been a sustained downward trend in the number of successful attacks on shipping.
In particular, there was no reported attack in June and August 2018 while one attack each was recorded in July, October and December. These cases mainly occurred along the coast of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States.
The Nigerian Navy authorities disclosed that they arrested 214 vessels for maritime crimes in the last two years and handed them over for prosecution but due to weak legal framework, only nine have been successfully prosecuted’.
The chief of Training and Operations (CTops), Rear Admiral Mackson Makonju Kadiri, disclosed this during a press briefing on the Nigerian Navy scorecard for 2018, in Abuja.
He noted that the Nigerian Navy has developed capacity to effectively and efficiently monitor what transpires on its water ways irrespective of sea blindness.
Mackson said the poor prosecution of maritime crime is as a result of weak legal framework and called for a strong legal framework to avoid delay in prosecution of maritime crimes.
He noted that the essence of law enforcement is to deter crimes but if such delay continues, the objectives of the law enforcement agencies will be defeated.
He, however, noted that the activities of the Nigerian Navy in 2018 led to an increased production of maritime output sector.
The Nigerian Navy embarked on Operation Tsare Teku in 2016 with the mandate to combat attacks on shipping and other illegal activities in its designated area and protect offshore oil and gas installations.
He noted that from January to December 201, 34 pirate attacks on ships were reported with nine successful and 25 unsuccessful, adding that 20 robbery attacks were also reported in the year under review with six successful and 14 unsuccessful.
He stressed that the inception of Operation Tsare Teku brought about significant increase in maritime security.
Following the success of the operation, the authorities reviewed and observed that most of the attacks were executed from land hence, the establishment of choke point management and control regime in March 2016 with nine house boats (Naval Security Stations).
The chief noted that since the introduction of the choke point management and control regime, several arrests and destruction of barges and other vessels used for conveying stolen crude oil and illegally refined products had been made.
The chief further noted that 46 vessels and barges were arrested for committing various maritime crimes in the period under review, adding that 31 large wooden boats were arrested while 176 large wooden boats were destroyed in the same year.
With the success of the choke point management and control regime and its attendant loopholes, the Navy introduced Operation River Sweep in January 2017 to address illegal refiners in Delta and Rivers States.
Following the inception of Operation River Sweep in 2018, he said the Nigerian
Navy destroyed 637 illegal refining sites and arrested 104 speed boats and 340 suspects for illegal oil bunkering or smuggling.
Speaking further, he disclosed that the nation however, lost 277, 040 barrels of crude, 23.1 million litres of AGO, 212, 610 litres of PMS and 1.2 million litres of DPK to illegal oil refining activities in 2018.
Though the response capability of the Navy has been enhanced over the years with the acquisition of more platforms, more still needs to be done for efficient and effective maritime security.
“Noteworthy is the acquisition of six OCEA class patrol vessels; NNS Nguru, Shiror, E
kulu, Ose, Gongola and Calabar, as well as the induction of several riverine boats in December for seaward and riverine operations.
“Notwithstanding these acquisition, there is need to increase the NNS operational capability by acquiring more vessels in order to enable it respond more effectively to contemporary and future threats,” he said
He noted that in spite of the federal government’s intervention in support of its engagement across the country, the service still requires an enhanced resource allocation to sustain a balanced force capable of discharging its roles effectively.
“Consequently, there is need for the government to do more in terms of funding in view of various ship rehabilitation/repair programmes geared towards operational availability of capital ships to enable the service meet its statutory responsibility. Also, the Nigerian Navy would need more offshore patrol vessels, helicopters and predator drones as immediate intervention,” he stressed.
The chief of Policy and Plans, Rear Admiral Begroy Ibe-Enwo, responding to questions on behalf of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, said proper legislation remains the way out for the delayed prosecution of maritime offenders.
Ibe-Enwo said the process is a work in process to have a dedicated maritime law enforcement exercise towards ensuring that legal issues are rolled out faster.
In a bid to facilitate the process, the establishment was birthed to harmonise standard procedure for dealing with maritime offenders.
He, however, called for a dedicated court for efficient and effective dispensation of maritime justice.
He said a dedicated court for trying maritime offenders will bring about speedy dispensation of justice as slow justice has endangered the nation’s water ways with several seized ships waiting trial.