How NIMASA Saved MV CHARIS And Its Crew From Equatorial Guinea Police Custody

By Stephen Ubanna

The negative  report  about the activities of Pirates in Nigerian water ways and the Gulf of Guinea , by the International Maritime Organisation, IMO, appears to have portrayed the country in a very bad light in the Comity of nations.  This is evident to what happened  on May 5, 2019, to    MV. CHRIS, the country’s fully flagged vessel.

 The vessel , according to  Isechei Osamgbi, a Deputy Director, in-charge of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA,  Public Relations Department, had been attacked by suspected  suspects but  the vessel and  the crew were, however, rescued  on  the quick intervention of a Spanish Naval vessel  within the vicinity. The Spanish Naval  patrol  team was said to have handed over the  vessel  to the Equatorial Guinea Navy to ensure their  protection.

Teodoro Nguema Obiang, the country’s Vice President, may not have been properly briefed   about how the Nigerian flagged vessel and the Crew , found their way to the country waters, than for him to go on air  to announce  that ten  sea pirates  of Nigerian origin  were arrested  in connection to the attack on MV. BLUE MARLIN, a foreign vessel.  NIMASA sources informed  The Value  News that the Nigerian flagged vessel was a not pirate crewed vessel used for nefarious activities in Nigeria waters and the Gulf of Guinea but a  tugboat , which was on its way to  ”execute  a vessel recovery  contract  in Equatorial Guinea territorial waters before  it was attacked by unknown assailants.

It was learnt the vessel had already been commandeered  by the suspected attackers  and used to  attack a much bigger  Maltese flagged  vessel, MV. BLUE  MARLIN  around the same area of the initial attack on My5, 2019. It was gathered that the distress call sent out by the Captain of  the Maltese flagged vessel ,  MV. , saved  her from being hijacked as  the Spanish Navy responded to the call .

Despite the circumstances that led to the handing over of the Nigerian flagged vessel to the Equatorial Guinea Navy   by the Spanish Navy, the vessel  was detained including  the crew members , forcing  Dakuku Peterside, Director General, NIMASA, , Toko Ali  Gongulong, the country’s Ambassador to the Central African country and  seyi Oladipo, a Navy Captain, and the country’s Defense attaché   to intervene  facilitate the release of  the vessel and its Crew from the country’s police custody.

The intervention of NIMASA  and the Embassy may have  saved the situation from degenerating into a diplomatic war between the two countries as Nigeria could not take it. President Muhammadu Buhari may have been waiting  to get a Confidential  report from Gongulong, the country’s Ambassador before knowing the next line of action to take in dealing with the situation.

But feelers from  maritime circles, both within and outside the country  , had confirmed that the misunderstanding  of the specifics  which occurred between  the arresting Authorities  on arrival  at Malabo, the country’s Capital may have prompted the detention of the Nigerian flagged vessel and the Crew. Note that MV. BLUE  MARLIN  was docked for repairs with its Crew treated decently but MV. CHARIS  and its Crew  were  detained by the police at the instance of the country’s Navy . They were said to have threatened of being charged to Court for alleged piracy instead of treating them decently like their MV BLUE MARLIN counterparts. 

Many believe that but for the  IMO, global reports in its first and second quarter of 2018, describing Nigerian waters as unsafe to voyaging vessels because of the activities of pirates , there is no way the Central African country would have summoned up courage to see a Nigerian flagged vessel in their waters and arrest it without reaching  out to the country ‘s maritime Regulatory agency.  This may have called for intensified  local and international Campaign to sensitise the international Community  that Nigeria waters are safer for voyaging vessels in order to disabuse their mind of seeing Nigerian flagged vessels  outside the shores of the  country’s waters and the Gulf of Guinea.

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