By Johnson Adebowale
Impersonation has been identified as a major challenge in marine security operations in Nigeria, even as stakeholders have canvassed the need to arrest the ugly trend.
Commander-general of the security body, Nigerian Merchant Sail Navy (MSN), Captain Johnlinus Okoronkwo, in his remarks during the passing-out parade of new officers from the outfit at Ibeju-Lekki, Lagos, recently, said that those impersonating members of the organisation would be decisively punished according to the laws of the land.
At the event, there was undiluted joy as the 29 officers successfully passed out and were inducted as Merchant Sail Navy.
Okoronkwo charged the officers to be good ambassadors of the organisation.
He said: “Today, we passed out our batch 006 Merchant Navy Fleet and these are the successful ones. It is noteworthy that, as they passed out today, the strength of the Nigerian Merchant Sail Navy has been enhanced by 29 able-bodied men and women. With the excellent display of drill exhibited on this parade ground today, I am certain you are ready for the task ahead.”
Addressing journalists, Okoronkwo said that the Merchant Sail Navy was a reserve marine force licensed and registered in Nigeria on December 10, 2019, under the Corporate Affairs Commission, which operates under the law of CAMA.
He lamented that the organization has been battling various fake operators in the marine security sector who are hellbent on impersonating his officers. He noted that, being a licensed body, MSN has the mandate to protect life and property and, therefore, qualifies it as a security agency.
“We are mariners and our duties include carrying out marine policing duty as support to the country, the Nigeria Navy, the civilian marine and the seafarer. This function is of utmost importance, considering the numerous challenges bedevilling our marine environment,” he said.
According to Okoronkwo, impersonation is the number one problem for marine security in Nigeria: fake operators want to bear and impersonate ‘Sail Navy’ or ‘Merchant Navy’, and, most of the time, if a problem arises from their illegal activities, the MSN is the target for the law enforcers, because the real identity of the fake operator is not revealed.
“We have made it known to the public on different platforms and forums that Merchant Sail Navy is the only sail navy registered in Nigeria and we only use sail identity card. Our uniform is navy blue up and down, apart from the general marine uniform and sail navy does use army camouflage. Also, our ranking is different from that of Nigerian Navy and that of the seafarer,” he explained.
To curb the problem, he said the organisation was doing everything to establish its commands across the 36 states of the federation.
Said he: “After getting its license about two years ago, we have established our command in Lagos, Ogun, Rivers, Abia and Enugu states, as part of measures to control the activities of impersonators, and we intend to have commands across the 36 states of the country.
“We have written to many formations and security bodies. We have published a notification under the judiciary to make it open that we are the only sail navy in Nigeria. Also, we have had meetings with many maritime associations concerning this.”
The ceremony was witnessed by the family and friends of the recruits