According to an online Nigerian newspaper, National Mirror, strong indications have emerged that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA, has intensified efforts towards rescuing five crew members kidnapped offshore Niger Delta on board a Liberian flagged chemical tanker, MT Sampatiki last week. Already, the agency has established contacts with the Interpol Regional Bureau and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime UNODC. Director General of the agency, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, assured that the agency would leave no stone un-turned in its efforts to ensure that the five crew members were rescued alive. It was reliablygathered that as part of such desperate efforts to achieve this goal, the agency had initiated discussions with the Interpol Regional Bureau and the UNODC with a view to reaching their respective bureaus in Togo with any useful information that may lead to the rescue of the vessel and crew.
The agency’s boss had said that information on the hijack of the vessels and subsequent abduction of the crew members was reported to the agency on March 26, 2016 after which the agency swung into action. Investigations also showed that the decision of the agency to swing into action follows a directive by the Minister of Transport, Mr. Rotimi Amaechi, in which he instructed the agency to investigate the incidence with a view to recovering both the abducted crew and the tanker ship.. Available records show that the embattled MT Sampatiki arrived Port Harcourt Port on March 21, 2016 with a load of gas oil but was detained by Nigerian surveyors for some deficiencies in her documentations after she was allowed to sail out of the Port Harcourt Port on March 24, 2016. Peterside had earlier disclosed that in addition to seeking assistance from the UNODC and Interpol, the agency had also contacted the Nigerian Navy to officially inform it of the incident and has also requested for the deployment of personnel and relevant vessels in search of the crew and the vessel.
He said: “We have also deployed the agency’s satellite surveillance facility in conjunction with intelligence from the Nigerian Navy, which led to the tracking of the vessel, which is now offshore Lome. “While the search for the abducted crew members has been intensified, we have also made contacts with the Maritime Administrations of the Republic of Benin and that of Togo to ensure safe return of the vessel. We are also in touch with the flag state and the owners of MT Sampatiki,” he also said emphatically. Investigations also showed that as a fall out of the recent abduction incident, the agency has also deployed some of its operational vessels manned by military personnel of the Maritime Guard Command MGC to enforce security with a view guaranteeing a 24 -hour patrol of the nation’s maritime domain.
While assuring that the Nigerian nation has what it takes to guarantee security of lives and property within her maritime domain, he promised that the agency under his watch would do everything within its powers to achieve that. According to him, the agency is working with the relevant authorities including the National Assembly, to ensure that the antipiracy Bill which has been at the National Assembly in the last two years was passed into law without further delay. It would be recalled that there had been increases of piracy and sea robbery off the Gulf of Guinea, especially Nigeria.