By Stephen Ubanna
With the Conviction of Binaebi Johnson, Daniel Lemmar and Ghane Gordon, by a PortHarcout High Court presided over by Justice Mohammed Sani, over alleged involvement in the hijack of an Equatorial Guinean Flagged ocean going vessel, MV ELOBEY, off the Coast of the West African country on Saturday, March 21, 2020, fear appears to have gripped the many groups of Pirates operating in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
In securing the Land mark Judgment from Justice Sani’s Court, Bashir Jamoh, Director General, Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency,NIMASA, has sent a signal to the unrepentant Pirates and thieves, that operating in Nigeria maritime domain that’’ it is no longer going to be business as usual’’
He was said to have made it clear to those that cares to listen that, that the agency ‘’as an interested party in the anti-Piracy war will continue to work closely with the Nigerian Navy and other government agencies, the International Community and Industry stakeholders to achieve improved security in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea’’
. The trio were said to have been Convicted under the Suppression of Piracy and other Maritime Crimes, SPOMO, Act, which was signed into Law by President Muhammadu Buhari, last June. The convicted suspects were said to be among the ten Pirates arrested by the Nigerian Navy on Saturday, March 21, 2020. In the spirit of inter-agency relationship, they were said to have been anhanded over to the agency for prosecution. Others are Hassan Hakeem, Gregory Smith, Ofem Uket,, John Mark, Chidi Amadi and Eze Amadi. The ten suspected Pirates who fell into the waiting hands of the Nigerian Navy Patrol Team were said to be members of a shipping syndicate operating in Nigerian waters and the Gulf of Guinea.
The arrested suspected Pirates were said to have demanded $2 million ramsome from the shipping agent of MV ELOBEY attacked in order to facilitate the release of the vessel and the Crew members. Although the Syndicate had demanded $2 million rasome, it was said to have been beaten down to $200,000, which was eventually paid to them.
Between the last quarter of 2019 and March , 2020, the number of Piracy attacks on Merchant vessels in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea was unimaginable. The International Maritime Bureau, IMB, revealed that in the last quarter of 2019, alone, the Pirates in their greed for money had kidnapped 64 Seafarers in six different attacks on ocean going vessels in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea. Many of the Pirate groups are believed to operate outside Nigeria.
This may have informed why NIMASA and the Nigerian Navy, NN, may have stepped up the anti-Piracy war in the recent time. Signs that the die-hard Pirates operating in Nigerian maritime domain may no longer find it easy to attack ocean going vessels emerged the day, the agency took delivery of two Special Mission vessels, equipped with sophisticated intelligence gathering timely detection and response to illegal activities in the country waters and the Gulf of Guinea, from HLSI Security Systems and Techologies Limited, an Israeli , security Company. The vessels, named DB Lagos and DB Abuja, according to insider sources are said to be in the custody of the Navy.
Note that the government had awarded a $195 million contract the Israeli security outfit to secure all anchorage areas in Nigeria maritime domain and supply the anti-piracy equipment as well as train Nigerians to handle the security of the nation’s maritime domain.
. Until, he was removed from office last March, by the Katsina state born Nigerian Prsident, Dakuku Peterside, a Rivers state born Politician and former Director General of NIMASA, had said that aside of the two Special Mission vessels , an additional 10 FastInterceptor Boats had arrived the country. He had disclosed that more of such equipment needed to combat the activities of the Pirates in Nigeria are expected later in the later.. He is right. More of such anti-Piracy equipment are said to have arrived the country and deployed for operations. That much was confirmed by Jamoh, the NIMASA helmsman.
Ths may have informed the renewed ant-piracy war in the recent time which had forced many of the Pirate groups operating in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea to go underground. Before the involvement of the Israeli security firm in protecting Nigeria maritime domain and supply anti-Piracy equipment to the agency, the country , according to maritime analysts a was losing about $2.3 billion naira annually to the maritime thieves. That appear to have reduced drastically in the last four months, no thanks to Jamoh’s efforts.
He had made security of Nigeria maritime domain of one of the major focus of his administration and he has kept to the promise that Kitack Lim, Secretary General, International Maritime Organisation, IMO, sent him a Commendation letter, as a way of encouraging him to intensify the anti-piracy war and prosecute the suspects caught in the act in keeping with the country’s anti-piray Law.