The Nigerian Navy (NN) says it is unable to fulfil its constitutional obligation of defending and protecting the country’s territorial waters because more than half its fleet is broken down.
Addressing navy officers taking part in operations to stop oil theft and illegal bunkering during a familiarisation tour of the NNS Quora in Lagos on Monday, NN Chief of Naval Staff Vice-Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas said most of vessels are down due to negligence on the part of the navy officers who use them.
“We have more than 50 per cent of our ships down and some of the problems are avoidable. I am always perplexed at the way we handle what we call government property and the truth is that we are short-changing ourselves because the money government gives us will go back go repairing those equipment.
“You are aware of the meagre resources and I expect those handling the ships or any equipment to help maintain it. My vision is to develop a credible naval force in fulfilment of the navy’s constitutional roles to national security. The nation is losing a lot and we must tackle crude oil theft and other crimes at sea,” the Vice Admiral said.
He said most of the operations designed to eradicate the oil bunkering syndicates operating in the country’s waters were still achieving limited success because some navy officers and other security personnel were involved in the illegal activities. In 2012, the Nigerian Senate Committee on navy toured naval bases in the five states of the Niger Delta and found the equipment and infrastructure in a broken down state which made it impossible for the force to secure the country’s territorial waters.
Officers who spoke to the Senate Committee said the navy was unable to conduct effective sea surveillance operations because it lacks the offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) and fast attack vessels.
The committee also found that several navy vessels – including NNS Damisa and NNS Victory – and light patrol boats were broken down with minor mechanical problems which could be easily fixed. Although it is charged with providing technical expertise to help develop local capacity to build and maintain vessels, the NN shipyard in Port Harcourt was found to be totally inactive and lacking both the personnel and equipment to fulfil its roles.
Among other recommendations, the committee called for a national stakeholders conference to work out ways of increasing the number of navy vessels, repairing broken down vessels and ensuring that there is always an adequate budget for the maintenance of vessels and base infrastructure.