The 64th anniversary celebration of the Nigerian Navy held between May 25, 2020 and June 1, 2020 , was void of the usual pomp, due to the COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the entire globe.
However, Vanguard’s Assistant Crime Editor, Evelyn Usman, in this report, reviews their efforts at improving the maritime security in the Nigerian waters and the Gulf of the Guinea.
The maritime threats that have significant effects in Nigeria’s maritime environment include piracy/sea robbery, crude oil theft, illegal oil bunkering, smuggling, Illegal Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUUF), insurgency, hostage taking, human and drug trafficking.
Since the nation relies on the sea for its economic development, as maritime trade accounts for about 95% of the vehicular means of its international trade, the thorny issue of insecurity in its maritime domain is undeniably a major concern.
So far, statistics at Crime Guard disposal show that the Nigerian Navy’s intervention has been able to suppress piracy in the country’s maritime domain as well as its Gulf of Guinea corridor.
Anti Piracy Operations
For instance, on April 18, 2020, 11 crew men on board a Portuguese flagged container ship, MV TOMMI RITSCHER, that was attacked by pirates in the Republic of Benin waters, were rescued by the Nigerian Navy.
Also, a fishing vessel, MV HAILUFENG II, which was hijacked off the coast of Cote D’Ivoire on May 15, 2020, was rescued by the navy.
As at May 20, 2020, record showed there were nine pirate attacks out of which only two were successful and seven unsuccessful, a figure that reveals a sharp decline when compared to records of successful pirate attacks between years 2016 and now.
Year 2016 recorded the highest piracy attacks in the past five years with 70 incidents, out of which 51 were successful while 19 were unsuccessful.
In 2017, records showed there were 48 piracy related cases out of which 27 were successful, while 36 reported cases occurred in 2018, out of which nine were successful.
Furthermore, in 2019, 21 piracy related cases were reported , with seven of them reportedly successful.
As at 20 May 2020, there were nine pirate attacks of which only two were successful and seven unsuccessful, according to the report.
From the report, the success rate of pirate attacks, which was 72.86 per cent in 2016, decreased to 56.25 per cent in 2017 , with further decrease by 25% in 2018.
Anti Crude Oil Theft
Within the period under review, 2,287 illegal refineries were reportedly destroyed by the Nigerian Navy in its fight against Crude Oil Theft and Illegal oil bunkering, during operations conducted by its operational bases and Forward Operational Bases ,FOB across Nigeria.
These activities were complemented with series of swamp boggy operations in the areas where illegal refineries were discovered.
A breakdown of the figure revealed that 140 illegal refineries and 128 refining sites were destroyed in 2016. In 2017, 1,2018 refineries were destroyed , while 383 and 418 illegal refining sites were destroyed in 2018 and 2019 respectively.
From the statistics, 2017 recorded the highest number of illegal refining sites destroyed, while it decreased in 2018 and later increased slightly in 2019.
Criminal denied dealings
Interestingly, with these destruction, criminal oil entrepreneurs were denied close to N40 billion.
A breakdown of this figure showed that in 2017, the NN denied criminal oil entrepreneurs dealing on illegal oil, about 218,057 barrels of crude oil valued at N3,724,413,560 and 60,553,415 ltrs of AGO valued at N11,807,915,925.
Similarly, in 2018, illegal oil dealings of about 295,028 barrels of crude oil valued about N5,039,078,240 and 23,991,325 ltrs of AGO valued at N4,678,308,375.
In the same vein, they were denied 296,192 barrels of crude oil valued at N5,058,959,360 and 42,729,530 ltrs of AGO valued at N8,332,258,350.
In the area of anti-smuggling, the Nigerian Navy according to the Chief of Policy and Planning, Rear Admiral Ifeola Mohammed, arrested 449 suspected smugglers , with the recovery of 82 smuggling boats and 22 vehicles cumulatively laden with 61,719 bags of rice, within the period under review.
The suspects, their boats and recovered items , were thereafter, handed over to the Nigeria Customs Service.
While review the achievement of the Navy under the leadership of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, Mohammed, disclosed that the
Navy had 24 Maritime Domain Awareness, MDA Centres located across the Nigerian coastline, which carried out round the clock surveillance of the nation’s maritime space, using the Regional and Maritime Awareness
Capability (RMAC) and Falcon Eye facilities, in addition to the use of vessels and helicopters.
Due to their availability, the navy patrol according to him, “ are now more mission oriented with attendant reduction in operational logistic costs. The infrastructure has been instrumental in several rescue operations. For instance, the MDA infrastructure was instrumental to the rescue of the crew of the Bristow helicopter that crashed in Lagos on February 3, 2016, and many other classified operations”.
CNS Policy Thrust
He recalled that on assumption of office in 2015, the CNS, placed a high premium of Operational Availability on ships, training and motivation of personnel.
Consequently, he said that the Federal Government had assisted the NN to take delivery of numerous ships including recent acquisitions of Offshore Patrol Vessels, OPVs, Seaward Defence Boats, Patrol Craft and Training Ships as well as Helicopter.
To man and operate these high value assets, the NN, he said, “ parades crops of professionally competent personnel, who are given qualitative training, both locally and abroad on a regular basis. NN personnel undergo professional military education and most of the courses being run at the training schools and colleges, are given requisite accreditation for improved performance of the Under training officers and ratings”
In the area of man power generation, he revealed that in the last five years, the NN had commissioned 944 officers and enlisted 7,465 ratings, while 1,226, who have completed basic training were scheduled to join the Fleet shortly, with another set comprising 1,250 trainees, to commence training at the NN Basic Training School, thereafter.
Acquisition Of Platforms
Accordingly, he said that the Navy had in the last five years acquired three capital ships: NNS UNITY (an OPV), a new survey vessel and a Landing Ship Tank (LST).
“The survey vessel is expected to join the fleet before the end of the year while the LST would join in 2021. Furthermore, 11 River Town Class boats were acquired. Out of these, seven have been inducted into the NN fleet namely: NNS NGURU, SHIRORO, EKULU, OSE, GONGOLA, CALABAR and OSUN, while four more are programmed to join the fleet later this year.
“Additionally, in the last five years, the NN also invested in local content development through the local construction of Seaward Defence Boats (SDB). The second locally built SDB, NNS KARADUWA was commissioned in 2016 while her sister ship, a third locally built SDB is programmed to join the Service this year. In an effort to boost operations, 12 Manta Class boats and Inshore Patrol Craft were acquired and will be inducted into the fleet, this year.
“ For Riverine Operations, the Service took delivery of 148 River Patrol boats, with another 24 expected in the later part of 2020. Thirty six Rigid Inflatable Boats were also procured, with another batch of 56 programmed for delivery in 2020 ending.
“The renewed emphasis on fleet renewal under the leadership of CNS was further underscored with the acquisition of three Whaler boats that are also expected to join the fleet this year. Other acquisitions under this ambitious fleet renewal effort are the acquisition and deployment of 11 houseboats for the Choke Point Management and Control operations.
One houseboat is also expected to be deployed in 2020. One tug boat has been inducted into the Service while two others are expected to join the fleet in 2020. “Similarly, one water barge and one fuel barge are expected this year.The NN equally committed enormous resources to equipment availability to support its operations. Accordingly, the NN took delivery of a total of 168 outboard engines with requisite spares. As part of the Ministry of Defence’s critical intervention, the NN just took delivery of one Leonardo AW139 helicopter and is currently being inducted”.
Collaboration with maritime nations
In recognition of the centrality of collaboration with other maritime nations and international maritime agencies for successful maritime security operations, Rear admiral Mohammed, said that the Navy regularly holds international conferences and sea exercises with navies of other nations and major maritime stakeholders for the purpose of capacity building, intelligence and information sharing.
He said, “ For instance, the NN successfully hosted International Maritime Conference and Regional Maritime Exercise in 2016 and 2018 and would have hosted the 2020 edition but for the COVID-19 Pandemic. These have led to shared responsibilities with improved international and regional cooperation and synergy of efforts in tackling the myriad of challenges in Nigerian maritime environment. A critical achievement in terms of collaboration during the period under review is the operationalization of the Harmonized Standard Operating Procedure (HSOP) on Arrest, Detention and Prosecution of Vessels and Persons in Nigeria’s Maritime Environment”.
With the COVID pandemic, the Nigerian Navy, was compelled to restrict activities of its celebration to few activities, included distribution of palliatives and Personal Protective Equipment PPE to host communities across the country.
It also , commissioned a COVID-19 Isolation Centre in Lagos, with a view to supporting the Federal government against COVID-19 Pandemic and a modified and highly restricted Ceremonial Sunset, held at its command, on June 1, 2020, to mark the end of the week-long activities of its 64th anniversary.