From Molly Kilete, Abuja
The Nigerian Navy yesterday said it has shut over 500 illegal refineries operating in the creeks of the Niger Delta in the last six months.
According to the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, who held a closed-door meeting with the managing director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), Hajiya Hadiza Bala Usman, the Navy’s success at curbing the activities of illegal refinery operators was as a result of the commitment of his men to the security and safety of Nigeria’s maritime domain.
Ibas said: “In the past six months, we have been able to shut down about 500 illegal refineries and this is more than what has been achieved in the past two years.”
On the situation in the Niger Delta, he said: “What is happening is that once you focus on the activities of pirates and other criminals in the maritime sector, you see them run away and begin to struggle for survival in other areas.
“To some extent, we have been able to curtail them and their nefarious activities in the maritime sector.”
Ibas stated that the Navy wants the issue of Warri and Calabar channels to be addressed, as they were critical to the operations of naval personnel.
“We are concerned about issues of safety and security, particularly in major waterways. The Warri and Calabar channels need urgent attention. Our operations suffer when we cannot use these channels, as expected.
“We also expect that the Safe Transit Corridor initiative would address some of these areas so that critical vessels can be escorted to safety in the Nigerian maritime domain. To curtail the menace of sea pirates and robbers, we have set up a task force to focus attention on areas identified as flashpoints for pirates’ attacks and sea robbery,” he said.
“And I am happy that in the last few months we have been able to subdue them. We are also talking with stakeholders on how best we could provide adequate security for critical consignments moving from the east to the west.”
He thanked the NPA for planning to build Forward Operating Base (FOB) at Tarkwa Bay, saying: “This will make the Nigerian Navy to be in a position to secure the Lagos area against criminals.”
Earlier in her remarks, Usman said her visit was part of the management of NPA’s interaction with stakeholders aimed at strengthening the mode of operations and collaborations between the two agencies.
She said apart from the issues of premises and property that joined the NPA and the Nigerian Navy together, the NPA plans to develop a Forward Operating Base (FOB) for the Navy, which has been provided for in the 2017 budget.