By Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
The Nigerian Navy has said it has uncovered an illegal naval training school based at Wiiyaakara Community, Khana Local Government Area of Rivers State used by suspected criminals to defraud members of the public.
The Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship Jubilee, Calabar, Commodore Saidu Garba, made the declaration yesterday while parading six illegal operators of the school and four trainees to journalists at the base of the illegal school in Wiiyaakara community, Khana local government area of Rivers.
He gave the name of the illegal training school as the Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force.
According to him, the school paraded itself as an affiliate naval training centre which specialised in recruitment and training of trainees for direct entry into the Nigerian Navy.
He said, “On January 9 during a routine patrol, troops of NNS Jubilee came across a sign post bearing the name: Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force situated in Wiiyaakara Community in Khana LGA.
“On further search, our patrol team found out that the illegal organisation used a Model Primary school in Wiiyaakara community as its training centre.
“This illegal organisation specialises on recruitment and training after collecting huge sums of money from unsuspecting members of the public through sale of forms and registration.
“They conduct training for youths and at the end of the training send them out in the name of industrial attachment to so called naval organisations.
“Sometimes they even promised them that immediately they finish from the programme that they will automatically join the navy.
“We are suspecting that operators of the school use the facility to recruit and train youths for militancy.”
Garba said the organisation alongside the Nigerian Maritime Security Agency and the Nigerian Merchant Navy Petroleum Security and Safety Corp were banned by the Federal Government in 2013.
He said that troops arrested 10 suspects on the scene including six operators of the training school and four trainees.
Garba said items recovered from the suspects included military camouflage and accoutres, and a self-styled “obstacle-crossing” used by the military in training of personnel.
The commander said investigation was on-going to determine if any serving and retired personnel were behind the illegal training school believed to be operating across the country.
“We assure the public that sponsors of the school would be arrested and dealt with accordingly,” he promised.
Speaking, one of the suspects, Mr. James Otoko, 27 years, who presented himself as the Commanding Officer of the school, claimed he worked for one Commodore Chuku Agaba.
He alleged that Agaba was the Chief of the Nigerian Merchant Coastal Corps and financier of the school and added that the centre was opened in 2016.
“I was driven to join the training centre as its pioneer Commanding Officer due to my inability to secure a legitimate job,” he added.
Otoko admitted the school was illegal and pleaded for leniency from government.
The 10 suspects were handed over to the Rivers Police command for further investigation and possible prosecution.
It was gathered that the training school sold forms for recruitment between the sum of N100, 000 to N300, 000 with many said to have participated in the training programme.