Navy Chief, IGP Petitioned over Invasion, Closure of Maritime Academy

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Okon Bassey in Uyo

The management of Merchant Seaman Academy in Essien Udim Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State has petitioned the Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Adm. Ibok-Ete Ibas, over the closure of the school by operatives of the Nigerian Navy.

The petition, which underscored a lingering face-off between the Nigerian Navy, NNS Jubilee, Ikot Abasi, and the academy, was signed on behalf of the academy’s proprietor, Mr. Adams Pius, by his lawyer, Barrister Jiti Ogunye of Jiti Ogunye law Chambers, Lagos. It was also copied the Inspector General of Police Ibrahim Idris. Pius demanded immediate re-opening of the school.

Pius, in the petition, complained of the violation of his fundamental human rights and threatened to take the Nigerian Navy to court and demand damages; should the authorities refuse to yield to the demand of his client.

The academy located in Uwa West, Essien Udim local government area of Akwa Ibom was closed on February 9, 2017 by officers of the Nigerian Navy, NNS Jubilee, alleging that the school was a mushroom institution claiming to train manpower for the maritime sector.

The petition alleged the proprietor and his wife were arrested and detained from Feb. 9, 2017 to Feb. 14, 2017 with the complicity of the officers of the Nigeria Police Force.

“Our client believes that the invasion of the school and the associated violation of his rights were based on your instructions or at the very least, enjoyed your endorsement.

“The destruction of the property of the school in the course of the military invasion constitutes a willful and malicious destruction of property,” the petition posited.

Ogunleye further alleged that his client was locked and deprived the use of his property even when the Nigerian Navy was aware that the school was duly registered, licensed and approved.

He said the school was duly registered by the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) in 2013 to train professional seafarers in Nigeria and run approved maritime courses.

“The Navy invaded and shut down the Academy in February 2017, describing it as a mushroom school and a proscribed institution,” Ogunleye lamented.

He said his client was a member of the Nigerian Merchant Navy Officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association with technical knowledge in maritime issues.

The operatives of the Nigerian Navy, NNS Jubilee, Akwa Ibom, had in February closed down the academy, alleging it was an illegal institution.

The proprietor was arrested along with other staff members while the students numbering 95 were sent home on grounds that the institution was unqualified to be a merchant navy academy.

The Executive Officer at NNS Jubilee, Capt. Mudiaga Ejumabone, who led the operation, had told newsmen that the Merchant Seaman Academy was not an approved institution.

Ejumabone said the only institution that trained merchant navy in the country was Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, under the supervision of the Federal Ministry of Transport

He stated that the Merchant Seaman Academy did not have any legal backing to operate and was neither registered nor approved by the Ministry of Transport as a maritime training institution.

“Some of these people often deceive prospective recruits that it has affiliation with Nigerian Navy and the Maritime Academy of Nigeria, Oron, as their uniforms resemble naval uniforms. As you can see they are impersonating, especially with their mode of dressing, which is similar to the naval uniform, causing a big embarrassment to the Nigerian Navy.

“The nefarious activities of these so-called seafarers, if not nipped in the bud, will continue to constitute serious security problems in the country,” Ejumabone stressed.