The Nigerian Navy said it arrested over 80 vessels within the last three years for various maritime offences including oil theft.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, disclosed this at the closing ceremony of the multi-national annual maritime exercise code-named OBANGAME EXPRESS 2019, saying that the vessels were arrested for various acts of maritime illegalities.
His words: “Within the past 3 years, over 80 errant vessels have been arrested for various acts of illegality. MT TECNE and MT NIPAL were caught in the act of stealing crude oil at loading facilities in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
“Suffice it to state that the navy arrested a total of 30 vessels in 2018 for involvement in various forms of illegality in the nation’s maritime domain.
“This indicates on the face value, a downward trend when compared with 37 and 45 arrests recorded in 2016 and 2017 respectively.”
He said the arrests had served as a deterrent and helped to support the huge national dependence on the maritime economy, adding that “with the benefit of this exercise now, which has further sharpened our skills, we look forward to even greater achievements over the past efforts.”
Ibas spoke on the EXERCISE OBANGAME EXPRESS, explaining that it was organised to foster regional cooperation and intelligence sharing amongst the Gulf of Guinea (GOG) navies as well as other friendly navies towards tackling cross- border banditry and other maritime criminalities.
Admiral Ibas said: “In this regard, the exercise aims at working out each participating country’s capabilities in maritime domain awareness, implementation of regional maritime agreements and interoperability of African, European, Atlantic, and US militaries and agencies towards improving maritime safety and security in the GOG.
“It also creates a platform for the navy to practice the operationalisation of the Harmonised Standard Operation Procedures for arrest, detention and prosecution of the criminal vessel in our waters.”
Ibas expressed the hope that each participating country would build on the experiences gained during the 2019 edition of OBANGAME EXPRESS, urging participating countries to sustain the tempo for subsequent exercise and operations within the region.
Earlier the Commander of the United States Naval Forces in Africa, Vice Admiral James Foggo, applauded African countries participating in the Obangame Express, explaining that the essence of the gathering of naval forces in the Gulf of Guinea was for progress and development.
He said that maritime security brings prosperity to African more than rain that showers on crops and gives them the energy to grow.
He urged African countries to collaborate in terms of maritime security, adding that just as the United States eliminated piracy in the Gulf of Eden and with the Somali coast, it would also eliminate illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.