… Says pirates are behind warships rumour
The Director General (DG) of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) Dr. Patrick Ziakede Akpobolokemi on Tuesday declared that piracy or hijack of vessels within the nation’s water, has become a thing of the past.
The Director General who made the observation at a press conference while taking a bird’s eye view of his first, four-year tenure, also noted that the feat was achieved, because the Agency was able to optimally harness both the available technology and its personnel.
Akpobolokemi who assured that NIMASA would give all it takes to fight crimes in Nigeria’s Maritime Domain, emphasized that the NIMASA Satellite Surveillance Centre launched last June had been very crucial to the successes achieved by the Agency in terms of providing intelligence in the fight against piracy and other illicit crimes on the waterways.
“It is now very difficult for anybody to attempt a hijack or piracy incidents around the Nigerian maritime domain successfully as the Agency will get the intelligence before the attack is even launched.
“I challenge anyone of you here who can mention one hijack of a ship that has occurred in the last one year between the Lagos waters and Republic of Benin. Remember Nigeria controls about 60 per cent of maritime traffic in West Africa, do you think it is by coincidence or that the criminals just repented and this was not planned?”, he asked, refuting recent reports of alleged acquisitions of warships and gun boats.
Akpobolokemi posited that the vessels in question were however, simple decommissioned vessels procured by NIMASA through a Public Private Partnership arrangement being used by the Nigerian Navy with whom the Agency has a working agreement.
“It is the Navy that has fitted their guns on the vessels to aid their policing of the maritime domain.
“Some of you journalists have escorted us to commission the boats being called warships. They were commissioned and the Nigerian Navy mounted guns on them. The three ships recently commissioned when the President did the ground breaking ceremony for the Maritime University are the ones being called by the foreign media warships brought in from Norway. I invite you journalists to come with us and go and visit these ships called warships, which they will also claim I put all kinds of weapon in and see for yourself. They also claim we have armed men. Is the Nigerian Navy whom we partner with and who has a representative with us, a Navy Commodore, NIMASA’s Navy?” Dr. Akpobolokemi asked, noting that there had been quite “a lot of rumours going around”, which had been dished out by the various individuals and unscrupulous organisations who had found it very uncomfortable in carrying out their illegal activities.
The NIMASA Boss explained that the agency consisted of civilians who were professionals in various fields and who have no political affiliations or interests at all, beyond doing a perfect job, as an arm of government, responsible for maritime safety, security and regulations amongst others.
“We work in conjunction with the Nigerian Navy and other relevant security agencies to use their men and arms to patrol and provide safety of the country’s water ways, as mandated by the global body, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO)”, he also said.
The Director General said the primary interest of NIMASA was to provide a safe maritime domain and that the Agency had achieved this through the Satellite Surveillance Centre, upgrade of the Global Maritime Distress Safety System (GMDSS) and continuous inter-Agency relations with the Nigerian Navy, the Nigerian Air Force and the Joint Task Force in the Niger Delta.
Dr. Akpobolokemi observed that in the process of fighting crime on the water ways, a lot would be said against the Agency.
“People will call you a lot of bad names. They will accuse you of using self help and aiding militancy but ask anyone arrested or his vessel seized what he did?” he noted further, warning that his management would not ever succumb to blackmail, as they have seriously grown thick skin, in a bid to ensure perfection in fulfilling their statutory mandate..
The Director General acknowledged that the Agency would always face challenges but said the challenges were there to make them work harder and surmount them and continue to improve the maritime sector, for the good of Nigeria and the world at large.
Dr. Akpobolokemi also reiterated the commitment of the Agency to growing human capacity for the maritime sector with the Nigeria Maritime University, the Institutes of Maritime Studies in the six Nigerian universities and the over 2500 Nigerian youths undergoing maritime training in various institutions around the globe.
… Says pirates are behind warships rumour