By Stephen Ubanna
Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA appears to have heaved a sigh of relief over the release of the fifteen Turkish sailors kidnapped by Pirates off the coast of Nigeria, within the Gulf of Guinea region, on Januaury 23, 2021, in a Container ship, MV.Mozart, owned by Boden Denizcilik based in Istanbul, Capital of Turkey .
The Liberia flagged MV.Mozart Container ship Crew members , according to a Statement issued by the shipping Company were released by the abductors on Friday, February, 12, 2021, in good health and had made contacts with their respective families. The sailors who were rescued after being kidnapped at sea were said to have been brought to Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, on Saturday, February 13, 2021, heavily guarded by Security operatives before being taken to the Turkish Embassy in the Nigerian Capital City.
Informed sources told the The Value News that initially six of the released Crew members were brought to the Embassy while the remaining nine were said to have joined them a couple of hours later. The were said to have been received by by Melih Ulueren, the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria, Turkish National Intelligence Organisation , MIT, members and the Embassy officials.
Boden shipping Co otmpany officials may have kept as a closely guided secret the details of how the sailors were released which may have given curious Nigerians the troubles of guessing if ransom was paid to the Nigerian Pirates and their foreign Collaborators.
But a senior Naval personnel who spoke to The Magazine, isclosed that there is no way the Turkish shipping Company could not have coughed out some thousands of dollars to settle the Pirates to secure the release of the sailors in which Recep Tayip Edogan, the country’s President and the International Community were very much interested to see to their release .
The Naval officer had cited the Kidnap of ten Turkish seamen in 2019, in a cargo vessel, who were said to have been released a month later after a payment of the ransom demanded by the Pirates, noting that the situation may not have been be different this time around.
The Naval Chief believes that it may have been the same group which had attacked a Turkish cargo vessel in 2019 and kidnapped ten sailors that may have launched the attack on the MV. Mozart Container ship, another Turkish cargo vessel. They were said to have demanded for ransom in 2019, which was s paid to them . Perhaps,given the huge amount made from the kidnap of the ten Turkish sailors , may have encouraged them to attack MV.Mozart, in January 23, 2021.
The sad news was that the fifteen released Turkish Container ship Crew members who are currently at the Turkish Embassy will be going back to their operational base at Turkey without their Complete number. This is because one of them ,an Azerbaijani, was killed by the Pirates during the attack thus, sending a message to the rest that any attempt by any sailor to put up any resistance would be met with force.
Recall that three of the Crew members of the Turkish Container ship had escape alive. They were said to reached the Central African country of Gabon on their own and finally returned to Turkey on January 30, 2021 to rejoin their family members while awaiting for the others to return back to Turkey.
A shipping Position document obtained from the Nigerian Ports Authority , NPA, shows that the Turkish Container ship , which ran into murky waters on January 23, 2021, was sailing from Nigeria to Cape Coast, South Africa, some 100 nautical miles or 185 Kilometers, north west of the Island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.
Prior to the release of the Turkish Crew members by the Pirates Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director general was said to have mobiliesd all his contacts in the nation’s maritime sector and the security circles to soften the ground to avoid a breakdown of Negotiation between Boden shipping company Team from Hamburg, Germany and the Pirates which may delay the release of the sailors. Note that Boden Denizcilk which provides technical services to the Container ship may have acted fast to meet the demand of the Pirates to secure the release of the sailors without keeping them too long in their Custody. Until their release to the Nigerian government, they were said to have spent one month in the custody of the Pirates.
many believe that the Pressure from NIMASA and other quarters may have forced the Pirates to contact the Turkish shipping Company on January 28, 2021 for talks in their undisclosed Location, which may be in the Central African country of Gabon. People have every reason to believe that the talks between the two parties was held in Gabon as the Container ship which was sailing from Nigeria to South Africa was re-routed to the country’s port of Gentil to berth. The Gabonese seamen were said to have provided assistance to the Turkish Container vessel to berth at the port, amidst tight security. The Turkish Container ship was said to have been cited in September 2020, near Durban , South Africa on a trading mission.
There is no gainsaying the fact that the Gulf of Guinea, off the Coasts of the West African countries of Nigeria, Guinea,Togo, Benin and the Central African country of Cameroon, is regarded by the International Maritime Bureau, IMB’’,as the most dangerous sea in the world for Piracy’’. It is not surprising why Levent Karsan, an official of the Boden Shipping Company had said that ‘’this kind of kidnapping that happens in the region unfortunately is completely aimed at getting ransom’’. He is right.
Given an insider information on the abducted Tukish Container ship, officials of Boden shipping Company had said that ”the vessel was abducted at gunpoint’’ by the Pirates to force the seamen to follow their instructions and not to do anything funny to avoid wasting their lives.
The direction of the Negotiations between the two parties, which security Operatives described as very encouraging may have informed why Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General, , had informed Ulueren, the Turkish Ambassador to Nigeria some two weeks ago that the 15 Turkish Crew members would regain their freedom soon as’’ the agency is working round the Clock to facilitate heir release ’’.
The NIMASA boss assurance about the possible release of the seamen anytime soon,, may have gladdened the heart of the Turkish Ambassador, who in turn was said to have passed the good news to Edogan, the country’s President. The Nigerian Maritime Regulatory agency intervention may have saved the Turkish President the troubles of orchestrating the officials since the information became a public knowledge on Sunday, January 24, 2021, in the rescue of the 15 kidnapped sailors on board the vessel.
Until the release of the Turkish sailors, on Friday, February 12, 2021,Edogan, who could not hide his feelings was said’’ to have launched diplomatic efforts to find the Crew members that were kidnapped after Pirates attack on a Turkish cargo ship o off the coast of Nigeria in the Gulf of Guinea region in the past in order to get an insight on how to handle the Crisis at hand.
He has his reason. Edogan believes that as the Turkish Chief Security Officer, it is his responsibility to protect thecitizens lives and property both within and outside the country. This may have informed why he was determined to secure the release of the fifteen MV. Mozart, sailors in the custody of Nigeria Pirates for almost a month.
Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish minister of Foreign Affairs had said that he had also begun initiatives for the abducted the Crew members safe return to Turkey. His mind may have been at rest that the sailors are alive, when he opportunity was created for him speak to Furkan Yaren, the ship’s fourth Captain, who was said to have remained aboard the vessel after the Pirates attack.
Yaren may have given the Turkish President an idea of where the abducted ship is bberthed when he told him that he had been cruising blindly towards Gabon, a country in the African Continent, but with damage to the ship’s control system . He was said to have made him to understand that ‘’only the radar of the ship was working which was not too good as it exposes the ship to danger. The Turkish President discussionS with the MV.Mozart fourth Captain may have given him hope that the Crew members will return to the country soon as assured by Jamoh, the NIMASA, Director General.
Ulueren, the Turkish Ambassador, who may have spoken the mind of Edogan, the country’s President had said that they could finally ”stop worrying over the release of the sailors”. The expression on the Turkish Ambassador’s face at the Embassy is very revealing. ”We are very happy to see our Citizens among us in good health”, he had said.
The frequent attacks on ocean going vessels by Pirates in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea by Pirates over the past five years may have brought NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy, under the close watch of , Ibok Ekwe- Ibas, a retired Vice Admiral and a former Chief of Naval Staff and now, a Non Career Ambassador, closer to plan on the way forward on how to deal decisively with the Pirates and make Nigeria a waters and the Gulf Guinea safe for ocean going vessels.
Zubairu Gambo, a Rear Admiral, and the new Chief of Naval Staff, may have continued from where rtd Vice Admiral-Ekwe- Ibas, had stopped. The good news is that NIMASA, under the close watch of Jamoh , has maintained a good working relationship with the Nigerian Navy that the leadership of the IMO. has recognized the good work of the agency and the Navy in curtailing the activities of the Pirates in the Gulf of Guinea region.
Kitack Lim, a Republic of Korea born Secretary General,of IMO, had said that if other members countries of the region had put in as much efforts and resources as Nigeria in tackling the menace of the pirates, the situation may not have been as bad as it is now that it has been described by the IMB” as very dangerous in the world of piracy”.
The International Community, however, would want the United Nations, UN, and the Leadership of the IMO, ‘’to take a decisive action against Piracy in the Gulf of Guinea’’ region to stop the mess and seave Nigeria and other member countries of the region from further embarrassment.