In keeping with its pledge to rid the nation’s maritime environment of pipeline vandals, illegal bunkerers and smugglers, the Nigerian Navy at the weekend said it arrested 22 vessels in seven months in Lagos area.
The arrested vessels are: MT Wollorf, MT Vine, MT Glenstar, MT Sisi Comfort, MT DA Chris, MT Dove 1, Lurongyuanyu 215, Lurongyuanyu 216, Lurongyuanyu 217, Lurongyuanyu 218, MT Matrix 1, Hai Long, Marion, Arc Charley, MT Thyword, MT Queen of Peace, MT United Venture, MT United Trador and MV Miracle.
Operatives of the Western Naval Command (WNC) at the weekend undertook a three-day sea exercise codenamed RIVER SWEEP III, which saw the dismantling of vandals’ hideouts and recovery of thousands of jerrycans at various creeks in Lagos, Ogun and Ondo States.
The exercise saw the simultaneous deployment of four capital ships up to about 100 nautical miles of the nation’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), while patrol boats werw deployed in the creeks to smoke out pipeline vandals.
Maritime patrol crafts and land assets were also deployed to block all exits, entrances that the criminals might use to escape.
Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) WNC, Rear Admiral Slyvanus Abbah, who led the operation, the vessels were arrested for various maritime offences between June 2017 and last Thursday.
He said the exercise was launched to leverage the gains recorded during Exercises RIVER SWEEP I and II held at the Eastern and Central Naval Commands last year.
Abbah acknowledged that a sustained presence of naval personnel at sea as well as the service’s Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) assets made it possible for the suspect vessels to be apprehended.
Flagging-off the exercise, Abbah said: “Our maritime domain is beclouded with piracy, illegal fishing and other maritime crimes. In Lagos area, we have maintained sanity for free flow of traffic in our waters and we have already registered some gains. Last year, some criminals invaded our Area of Responsibility (AOR) from the South to kidnap four Chinese men.
“Our men in Igbokoda, Ondo State, swooped on them and five of them were arrested. Also, during the operation, their leader was shot dead. The suspects arrested have been handed over to the Department of State Security (DSS).
“For now, Lagos waters are very calm as we have the Maritime Domain Awareness Centre that we use to monitor the sea and deploy men if need be to quell any situation.”
On the platforms deployed for the exercise, he said Nigerian Navy Ship OKPABANA sailed in from Port Harcourt to join NNS UNITY, NNS KARADUWA and NNS PROSPERITY for the sea patrols, while several Inshore Patrol Crafts (IPCs) were deployed to the creeks.
Commending the operatives at the end of the exercise, Abbah said those deployed to areas such as Badagry, Epe, Atlas Cove, Ikorodu, Igbokoda, Kirikiri and Ibeju- lekki discovered large numbers of jerrycans starched by suspected vandals.