By Nosa Alekhuogie

The Director General (DG), Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, has confirmed the hijack of a Liberian chemical tanker, MT Sampatiki with five crew members onboard at Excravos, Delta state.

The vessel was reported to have arrived Port Harcourt on March 21, 2016 heavily loaded with gas oil and was allowed to sail out of the port on March 24.
The federal government was informed of the hijacking incidence on March 26.
According to the DG, the Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi has given instructions to the Agency to investigate the incidence with a view to rescuing the abducted crew and recovering the vessel.

Briefing journalists at the NIMASA Head quarters, weekend, Peterside revealed that the draft Anti-piracy Bill would be passed by the National Assembly as soon as possible.

He said consultations with the Ministry of Transportation, the International Maritime Organisation (IMO), the Federal Ministry of Justice, the National Assembly, the Nigerian Navy, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the INTERPOL and other stakeholders were ongoing to ensure that necessary framework to counter the menace of piracy.

He also disclosed that the Agency has alerted the Nigerian Navy about the incident and has requested the deployment of the personnel and vessels in search of the crew and the vessel.

As at the time of this report, the Togolese authorities was reported to have boarded the ship to interview the crew members who were left onboard the vessel.

Peterside said: “We have  used our satellite surveillance facility in conjunction with intelligence from the Nigerian Navy and tracked the vessel, which is currently off shore Lome, while the search for the abducted crew members  is still ongoing.’’

According to a statement obtained by THISDAY, Nimasa has contacted the Maritime Administrations of the Republic of Benin and Togo to ensure safe return of the vessel and release of the abducted crew.

‘’The Interpol Regional Bureau and United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) have also been contacted to reach their respective bureaus in Togo with any useful information that may lead to the rescue of the vessel and crew’’, the statement added.

“Our collaboration with some arms of the Nigerian military has been most useful. We have commenced the process of reviewing our Memorandum of Understanding with the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Air Force respectively for continued coastal patrol and air surveillance to deter criminals and ensure quicker response time when incidents do occur.”

“Let no man be in doubt at all that as a nation, as NIMASA, working with the Nigerian Navy, we do not lack the capacity to maintain security on our territorial waters. Infact, we would not rest until we reed our waters of all form of criminality, that is our commitment and there is no going back on that”, Peterside was quoted to have said in the statement.