Senate Proposes Special Tribunal for Arrested Vessels’ Crew, Maritime Criminals


• Seeks increased budgetary allocation for Navy

Chiemelie Ezeobi

To tackle incidences of maritime crimes in the nation’s waterways, the Senate Committee on Nigerian Navy, yesterday said it had proposed a special tribunal to handle any arrested vessel and its crew.

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Isah Maisau, made this disclosure at the one-day oversight visit to the Western Naval Command (WNC) and Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC), in preparation for the 2017 budget.
Maisau was reacting to the reports by the Flag Officer Commanding, WNC, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai, who had during his briefing lamented that harbouring arrested vessels and catering for their crew was tasking the navy.

He said, “We are looking at a situation where all these arrested vessels within three months are taken care of. We shall have a special tribunal to handle cases of arrested vessels so that within three months, all the exhibits are handed over to the appropriate agencies and prosecution is concluded.

“At the end of the day, we will put a legislation whereby such vessels are forfeited to the Federal Government to deter the sponsors of maritime crimes because if you auction them, they will go behind and buy it and still continue the illegality. But if you put it for government use, it will deter the criminals from venturing into criminality, given the fact that they will forfeit their vessel to the government.”

On the essence of the oversight visit and the expected outcome he said, “You should expect so much. We are preparing for 2017 budget and we are expecting the president to lay the budget on Wednesday or Thursday next week. That is why we came out for oversight function, so that we can see where we can assist during the 2017 budget.
“Navy needs so much than the government is approving in the budget. About 75 to 80 per cent of the resources coming to government coffers lie within the maritime domain and the Navy is in charge of protecting the facilities.

“With the kind of budget we are approving, the nation cannot perform its function effectively. We are trying to see how we can make a special presentation and appeal to the president in collaboration with the National Security Adviser (NSA), finance minister and budget office to get intervention from other sources for the navy.
“As a committee, we would ensure that this time around, the navy has enough funds to perform its duties. If the resources are availed to the navy, the activities of militants in the Niger Delta will reduce, because the discipline, capacity and well trained officers to do it, but no equipment.

He added, “Only budgetary allocation of about N25 billion cannot do anything for a capital intensive agency like the navy. That money cannot even fuel all the ships they are using in one month, because, one vessel takes as much as 24 tankers of 33 litres.
“I am not happy with the situation of the things. I want a situation where we would be proud of the assets we have. The government has to look inwards to see how they can assist the navy.”

In response, the FOC West, Rear Admiral Bobai, said it was a good omen for a political master that came for an oversight function and understands the challenges of the navy.
He said, “These challenges are the issues the political masters of the past couldn’t fathom. We need more of these visits.”
On the key needs of the navy in general and the Western Naval Command specifically, he said the command needs funds for the Forward Operating Bases (FOB) Takwa Bay and Tongeji Island.
He also mentioned training of personnel, barracks accommodation for personnel, as well as providing financial support for the navy by appropriating funds for the repairs of its platforms.

He also asked for funds for more patrol boats, as well as the need for construction of more indigenous boats, like the NNS Andoni, which he said is more viable economically to patrol the Lagos area of responsibility.

On the problems caused by arrested vessels, he said they are a burden to the navy because there are no budgetary provisions to cater for the ship and its crew members.
Also, the FOC NAVTRAC, Rear Admiral Ifeola Mohammed, while receiving the senate committee members said the command is the heartbeat of training.

On the challenges he said it includes need for more training aids and models in most of the NN professional colleges and schools, dearth of instructorship manpower in NN professional schools, lack of trained NN personnel in the use of sails.
Others include difficulty in accrediting some courses such as advanced nursing courses, inadequate vehicles, and dilapidated jetties at navy professional schools.