Navy and seafarers disagree over spate of attacks

The Nigerian Navy and seafarers group have disagreed over spate of pirate attacks on Nigerian waters in recent times.

While the Nigerian Navy claimed there has not been any issue of pirate attacks on Nigerian territorial waters in the past three months, the group of seafarers under the aegis of concerned seafarers said the attacks had increased within the period under review.

The Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Habila Ngalabak said during the fourth quarter sea exercise carried out by Navy that there have not been attacks by the pirates.

However, the concerned seafarers claimed that the attacks have increased and gotten worse so much that pirates go on water to attack ships with wooden boats without any resistance from any security agency.

The Navy while explaining the essence of the sea training said, “If you notice, in the past three months now, there has not been issue of piracy and that is because we have been able to arrest a lot of them. We have resolved to stop at the level of catching them at sea, we are trying to get them even at their shore bases, and we are making efforts to get them even before their take off.

“We are using different tactics and you will notice that in the past three months, there is no issue of piracy.

But the combined group of seafarers expressed worries over the insecurity at sea as lives and properties have been threatened by the bandits within the nation’s territorial waters.

The Concerned Seafarers are made of members of the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, (NMNOWTSSA) the Nigerian Association of Master Mariners and ratings from the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN).

NMNOWTSSA  President, Engineer Matthew Alalade, in a chat with newsmen lamented that in the last one month, attack on tankers and trawlers have been a reoccurring decimal at sea, pointing out that the law enforcement agencies are not visible.

While expressing shock on the trending modus operandi by the bandits, the union boss said the sea robbers are ill-equipped, because according to him, the criminal elements made use of wooden boats with low engine capacity.

According to him, members who work aboard tankers and trawlers have been constantly reporting the case to the union’s headquarters in the last one month; hence the need to draw the attention of relevant agencies to nip the situation in the bud was necessary.

He alleged that the sea bandits either cart away personal effects  or demand for physical cash from the crew.

Alalade further challenged the naval authorities over alleged illegal arrest and detention of seafarers, saying the law enforcement agency hardly apprehends the pirates and sea robbers who perpetrate crimes at sea.

He said, “The question that follows: Are the Navy on top of the piracy issues for the past 2 months, on Nigeria waters? The spate of attacks and fear for Seafarers life, kidnapping is rife.

“I think we need to advise the Nigeria Government to seek a proper coast Guard on our waters. I want our bountiful contributions to save the Maritime environments. To be or not.”

As a result of the increase in the attacks, Alalade called for the establishment of Coast Guard that will take up the security at sea.

Recently, the Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), called on the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) to ensure fairness and balance in its reportage of piracy issues on Nigeria’s territorial waters.

Dakuku regretted what he called the exaggeration of reports on incidences on the country’s waterways by the IMB, a specialised department of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) dedicated to fighting maritime crime and malpractice.

The DG made the assertions on Tuesday in Lagos, when a delegation of the International Maritime Security Operations Team (IMSOT) from the United Kingdom paid a working visit to the Agency.

He bemoaned the distortion of facts in the coverage of Nigeria by the Bureau, saying such distortions can do reputational damage to the country within the international community.

He observed that even the slightest crimes in the creeks and harbours of Nigeria were often reported as piracy by the IMB Piracy Reporting Centre.

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