The Nigerian Marine Police have taken delivery of two Armacraft Croq 1270 patrol vessels, which were provided by the Lagos state government.
Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola commissioned the vessels on May 3, according to the Nigerian Daily Sun. He said the craft would help police the state’s waterways and rid it of criminal activities.
The Flag Officer Commanding Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Aminu Ikioda, thanked the governor for the vessels, saying that their arrival could not have come at a better time. He also asked the governor for more of the craft in order to confront the security challenges facing Nigeria’s waterways.
Commodore Martins Njoku said the boats would assist security agencies to make their presence felt along the coastline and would be used to prevent the dumping of waste along waterways.
According to Armacraft, the Croq 1270 has a length of 12.76 metres and weighs 7 400 kg. It can carry ten passengers and two crew and has a maximum speed of more than 45 knots and a range of approximately 550 nautical miles.
By using foldable modules, the layout of interior can be quickly changed depending on mission requirements, such as troop transport, ambulance, rescue, cargo or patrol.
Nigeria faces numerous security problems on its waterways, including terrorism, kidnapping, illegal bunkering.
Just recently, 21 Ghanaians and five Nigerians were arrested for illegal bunkering as part of the Joint Task Force’s Operation Pulo Shield in the Niger Delta. The task force also recovered more than 250 000 tons of crude oil from two vessels – MT Oxo and MT Ane – seized from the bunkerers.
Brigadier General Tukur Buratai, Commander of 2 Brigade of the Nigerian Army in Port Harcourt and Sector Two of the task force, told journalists yesterday that the suspects were arrested on Monday. “Since we took over the operation of the JTF, we have been fighting illegal bunkering, piracy, some elements of militancy, as well as illegal refineries, popularly known as cooking pots. We have really reduced them drastically,” Buratai said. “As they come up, we strike and ensure that we reduce them to the barest minimum and you can see our efforts are paying off. The level of crude oil stealing has [been] drastically reduced.”
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in its global piracy report for the first quarter of this year, warned that West Africa remained a worsening piracy hotspot, with Nigeria being a noteworthy flashpoint.
Attacks in the Gulf of Guinea have increased in recent months as the area, spanning a dozen countries, is a growing source of oil, cocoa and metals being shipped to the world’s markets. The IMB said there were ten attacks off Nigeria in the first quarter of this year. A further attack in neighbouring Benin was also attributed to Nigerian gangs.
“Nigerian piracy is increasing in incidence and extending in range,” said IMB director Pottengal Mukundan. “While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia, and hijacked vessels are under control of the pirates for days rather than months, the level of violence against crew is dangerously high.”
Meanwhile, the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) recorded a total of 83 piracy and sea robbery attacks, including other unlawful acts at sea, in 2011.
The attacks were mostly recorded from the country’s high risk areas of Bonny, Calabar, Port Harcourt, Warri and Lagos pilotage districts. Lagos pilotage district accounted for six of the reported attacks that resulted to varying degrees of injuries to ship crew, loss of lives of seafarers, loss of cash and shipboard equipment, Nigeria’s Business Day reports.
Patrick Akpobolokemi, director general of NIMASA, said that his agency and the Nigerian Navy had established the Maritime Guard Command for regular patrol of Lagos waters, while the Nigerian Marine Police patrol inland waterways. In addition, NIMASA is partnering with the Nigerian Air Force to establish a maritime air unit at Benin to carry out surveillance.