Barely three weeks to the end of the 2019 fiscal year, pirates appear to be on rampage as they attack ocean going vessels in the Nigeria water ways. This is evident going by last Tuesday attack of an oil tanker, named, Nave Constellation, along the coast of Bonny, in Rivers state.
The pirates were said to have abducted 18 Indians and one Turkish Crew members of the attacked vessel, who are still under their custody.
The attack of the oil tanker may have forced Dakuku Peterside, the Rivers state born Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, and the agency technical team from the maritime Search and Rescue Department to put head together in on how to fast-track the country’s maritime security architecture to curtail the activities of these criminal elements.
As a prelude to rescuing the abducted Crew members on board of the oil tnker vessel, the maritime Regulatory Agency and other relevant security agencies, particular, the Navy, according to sources, were said to have said the machinery in motion to doing so.
An aggrieved peterside, the NIMASA boss, who spoke at Abuja on Thursday, November 5, 2019 on the sidelines of the ongoing National Transportation Summit organised by the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria ,CIoTA, confirmed the information making the round in maritime circles that the oil vessel was attacked off the coast of Bonny, but revealed that nineteen persons were allegedly kidnapped leaving nine crew members onboard the vessel.
According to an insider the oil tanker had been working in the Nigerian waters illegally for ten days without observing the country’ Cabotage Laws in order to pay the necessary statutory dues and fees, an indication that there are loopholes in the agency operations. This is may have informed why it was not aware that such a vessel was attacked by Pirates until until the owners established contact with them and they, in turn reached out to the Naval personnel around the area to embark on a seach and rescue operation for the arrested vessel and the kidnapped Crew members.
The NIMASA Director General’s account that the vessel owners had operated for ten days, within the country’s territorial waters but could not establish any contact with the Nigerian Ports Authority, NPA, Harbour Masters, speaks volume. More worrisome was the fact that they could not establish contact with the authorities in Nigeria.
Security watchers believe that if the NIMASA officials had not contacted the naval unit around Coast of Bonny area when the tanker owners reached to them and alerted them of the attack, the situation w would have been bad.
The Navy which which were said to have taken over the lead of searching for search the attacked Oil tanker and the kidnapped Crew members were said to have used its network of informant to establish contact with the remaining crew members onboard the vessel who were said to have informed them that the ‘’nine persons onboard the vessel are safe and the vessel is safe”.
The NIMASA boss who could not hide his feelings lamented that the attack on the oil tanker is happening at a time that efforts are being put together by the Agency and the Navy, to make Nigerian waterways safe. He was said to have told ship Owners and their Crew members that the Agency will not rest on its oars until the country’s water ways are made safe for ocean going vessels.
It is not surprising why he had said that the attack on the vessel would ultimately serve as catalyst for the agency to fast-track what ‘’it is doing to safeguard our waterways so that commerce can thrive again and people can do economic activities without fear or hindrance”.
While sympathizing with the victims of the vessel atatck and their families for the ordeal and challenges of being kidnapped, he appealed to Concerned Nigerians and stakeholders to come together and work with NIMASA and the relevant security Agencies to curtail the activities of the Pirates in the country waters to make it a safe place to do maritime business.
Recall that Nigeria recently hosted Global Maritime Security Conference ,GMSC, where there was an Abuja Declaration towards enhancing collaboration among maritime nations in order to find a lasting solution to the security issues on the notorious Gulf of Guinea and the entire West and Central African sub-region.
Isichei Osamgbi, a Deputy Director and the agency spokesperson is optimistic that going by the security measures that had been put place and Collaboration with other relevant agencies, particular the Navy, the Pirates , operating in Nigerian waters to harass ocean-going vessels and their sponsors may no longer find it funny to carry out their nefarious activities because of what would befall them at the end.