The Eastern Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy on Saturday disclosed that it had confiscated 30 ships, tugboats and baggies in the last six months as a result of criminal activities, including illegal oil bunkering, on the waterways in the states under its authority.
Flag Officer Commanding, ENC, Rear Admiral Henry Babalola, made the disclosure in Calabar, Cross River State during a regimental dinner to mark the end of the FOC’s first bi-annual three-day sea exercise which ended on Thursday.
According to the FOC, beyond confiscation, navy personnel now take further steps to ensure that they apprehend those behind the crime.
“In the last six months, we have arrested well over thirty ships, tugboats and baggies. Almost on a daily basis, my operation men in Port Harcourt, Ikot-Abasi, Calabar, Bonny and Ibaka go on aggressive patrols and we have destroyed numerous illegal refineries.
“We have seized equipment and destroyed several formations and it is a continuous exercise. When we arrest a ship, our focus is not on the crew because the crew members are doing their paid jobs.
“We go further to look for those behind it and our job is to effect arrest, carry out preliminary investigations and hand them over to the relevant security agencies and will go further to be witness during trials,” he said.
Babalola, however, lamented that the major challenge facing the Navy was the high rate of kidnap and hostage-taking, using the creeks as hideouts.
He expressed optimism that the problem would soon be tackled with the release of new sets of boats to patrol creeks in the waterways.
He said, “The major security challenge facing us on the sea now is the problem of kidnapping and hostage-taking. I am happy to inform you that the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Usman Jibrin, has allocated some new patrol boats to combat these activities head on.
“We are also expecting other patrol boats that are currently undergoing construction in Port Harcourt. When we have those boats on our waterways, there will be a very significant reduction in criminal activities.”
The FOC disclosed that the three-day exercise was aimed at protecting the multi-million dollars offshore investments in the high sea.
“This sea inspection is the reflection of the navy day to day duties for the protections of the economic assets of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he added.