The Nigerian Navy has deployed warships and troops in a massive operation to end pirates’ attacks on local and international merchant ships in the Gulf of Guinea.
The Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Adm. Iboke-Ete Ibas, said this at the launch of the special operation, code-named “Tsare Teku V”, on Wednesday in Onne, Rivers.
Ibas said the operation also sought to contain high spate of attacks by oil thieves on critical oil and gas installations and other criminalities prevalent in the nation’s territorial waters.
According to him, operation “Tsare Teku V” was a continuation of an earlier operation launched in the first quarter of 2016 to protect offshore oil and gas facilities and economic activities.
“The operation has yielded positive result with significant improvement in the safety of shipping and offshore oil and gas facilities.
“It is gratifying to note that between January and June 2017, there were only four successful attacks on shipping within Nigeria’s waters as against 36 between January and June 2016.
“This improvement in security situation within Nigeria’s offshore maritime domain is attributable to the intensive patrols and efforts of Operation Tsare Teku,” he said.
Represented by Rear Adm. Ferguson Bobai, the Chief of Training and Operation, Naval Headquarters, Ibas said the operation would also cover troubled coastlines in Bayelsa.
Ibas said the International Maritime Bureau in its first quarter 2017 report on piracy and armed robbery in the Gulf of Guinea attributed current decline to the efforts of the Nigerian navy.
The CNS said the report, however, observed that the area remained a kidnap hot spot for criminals, especially hijackers.
“This report re-emphasises the need for sustenance of the operation, and as such, made it imperative to extend the operation by another six months.
“The Nigerian Navy remains absolutely committed to creating a secure and enabling maritime environment for economic activities to thrive toward national growth,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Navy has handed-over to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) 11 suspected oil thieves over alleged shipment of 1.3 million litres of stolen diesel worth N260 million.
Capt. Victor Choji, the Executive Officer, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, said the 11 all-male crew members were arrested on board their vessel, MT Garroch.
He said troops impounded the vessel during a routine patrol off the coast of Okirika Local Government Area of Rivers.
According to him, the arrest and seizure were in continuation of the service’s current mop-up of illegal refineries and illicit bunkering on the nation’s maritime environment.
“On March 18, troops of NNS Pathfinder, a group under Operation Delta Safe, during routine patrol intercepted and impounded a vessel, MT Garroch.
“The vessel was caught in the act transporting about 1.3 million litres of petroleum product suspected to be illegally refined diesel
“Eleven all-male crew members of Nigerian nationality were arrested on board the vessel and the suspects have been in our custody for preliminary investigation,” he said.
Choji said the Navy had conducted thorough investigation on the matter and was convinced that the diesel was sourced from illegal refineries, as it did not meet required standard.
The Executive Officer explained that EFCC would carry out further forensic analysis of the vessel and content to unravel the circumstances behind the illegal shipment.
Choji urged residents particularly those in coastal areas to go about their lawful activities without fear of molestation by criminals.
“NNS Pathfinder will continue to carry out 24-hour patrol of the waterways and creeks, while maintaining presence at flash points.
“We are here (on waterways) and on ground determined and prepared to frustrate all forms of illegalities particularly in the Rivers maritime environment,” he assured.
A senior detective of the EFCC, Mr Musa Gidado, who received the 11 suspected oil thieves and vessel, said the commission would conduct thorough investigation on the matter.
Gidado said that the suspects would be arraigned if found culpable of the allegations leveled against them.