Chiemelie Ezeobi writes on the move to boost the operational capabilities of the marine wing of the Nigeria Police in tackling pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft, amongst others on the inland waterways 

It was a surprise attack as some militants recently struck at the Igbokoda area of Ondo State and attacked the policemen deployed to man the waterways there. They not only attacked the policemen but succeeded in disarming them.

But for the subsequent intervention by operatives of the Nigerian Navy (NN) it would have gone down the annals of history as a bad day for the police. Confirming this, the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Slyvanus Abbah, said the naval personnel deployed to Igbokoda responded to the distress call that some militants had attacked and disarmed some policemen.

He said: “Our men at Igbokoda raced to a village called Aiyetoro after they got a signal that some hoodlums had attacked and disarmed some mobile policemen stationed there. Our men gave chase and disarmed them. They were able to recover two of the three arms from the militants. We are on top of the situation.”

Thus, to erase situations like the above mentioned scenario, the Basic Marine Operation Course (BMOC) was borne out of the urgent need to equip the marine wing of the Nigerian Police Force.

Given that the maritime domain remains a strategic asset with its enormous resources and potential, the BMOC was inaugurated in March 2016, to boost the operational capability of the Marine Police to help patrol the waterways that has been persistently challenged by a myriad of threats that have impinged on Nigeria’s economic well-being and national security.

With the knowledge that for the Marine Police to operate minimally, the police, partnered the Nigerian Navy to integrate maritime doctrines and interoperability for its personnel to counter maritime crimes like pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, among others.

Having seen the successes recorded by the first tranche of policemen who were trained in 2016, the second tranche was increased to 50 as against the initial trained 39. While the first one took place at Nigerian Navy Ship QUORRA of The Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC), the second training was moved to the Joint Maritime Security Training Centre (JMSTC) at Navy Town, Ojo, Lagos.

Also, whilst the first training took a span of 13 weeks, the subsequent one was compiled to six weeks. Meanwhile, among the 50 trained personnel were assistant superintendents of police, inspectors, sergeants and corporals.

However, at the recent graduation of the second tranche at JMSTC, the 50 graduands who were trained to counter maritime crimes like pipeline vandalism, crude oil theft, among others, were said to have also been trained towards developing their capacity for marine and riverine operations.

During the weeks of training, the course was tailored towards improving the Marine Police’s ability in weapon handling and boat handling maintenance, as well as being introduced to the laws of the sea, search and rescue, as well as other elements of chart work and rules of the road.

The Navy’s contribution

The entire training was pioneered by the navy and in his speech, the NAVTRAC Flag Officer Commanding, Rear Admiral Obi Ofodile, said the graduation was a milestone for the navy and the police.

Speaking at the passing out ceremony of the BMOC Batch B, Ofodile said the course was aimed at developing the capacity of the Marine Police to conduct operations in support of the NN in internal waters to the harbour and port entrances of our littoral state.

He said, “The training you have just passed through inculcates the best global practices in Seamanship, Navigation and other specific areas of maritime operations. I am sure you have endured six weeks of training that would further enhance your professional competence in the Nigeria Police Force.

“Let me also place on record that the Joint Maritime Security Training Centre is one of the best on the continent. I have no doubt that despite the rigours of the training, you have benefitted greatly from this citadel of learning.

“You should therefore use the privilege of this training to improve yourself in order to meet the challenges ahead. It is pertinent to state that the recent security challenges confronting the nation, especially in the maritime environment need the collaborative efforts of all security agencies, especially between the NN and the Nigeria Police.

“I will like to appreciate the CNS and IGP for working out this training arrangement, which has not only brought the two services closer but has also enabled us to share knowledge with one another. The NN is ever ready to render necessary assistance to the Nigeria Police when called upon. I am sure that the converse will also be the case if NN requires anything from the Nigeria Police.

“As a maritime nation endowed with enormous maritime resources, the need to protect these resources becomes very necessary. I am highly delighted that the Joint Maritime Security Training Centre has turned out this set of professionally trained and adept Marine Police Officers.

“You are now prepared to carry out your various duties as may be assigned to you in future, especially within the inland waterways of the country.

“While performing your duties, it has become necessary for us to work together as a team. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is there as per the roles of the different organisations and there is no scepticism on who the Scene Commander is.

“Despite these, the need to know and the need to share in order to further improve the inter-agency collaboration cannot be overemphasised. To win the war against crude oil thieves and illegal bunkerers as well as other enemies of the state, our services must be of one accord.”

The trainer’s charge 

As expected, the trainer took to the podium to address the graduands, charging them to put to use all the skills acquired in their day-to-day operations while patrolling their areas of responsibility (AOR).

The trainer, who also doubles as the JMSTC Commandant, Captain Noel Madugu, while speaking to the graduands said the trainings received were the start of their career in the Nigerian Marine Police operations.

He said: “The BMOC was developed in order to enhance the capability of the Marine Department of the Nigerian Police for littoral and riverine operations so as to enable them carry out their duties in securing Nigeria’s Maritime environment particularly the inland waters, effectively and efficiently.

“Therefore, the objectives of the course was to improve the knowledge of the participants in seamanship and navigation in line with international best practices.

“Also to make the participants well versed in boat handling techniques and maintenance and to enhance the instructional capabilities of participants on boat handling techniques and maintenance.

“Also to improve on water survival/search and rescue skills of the participants, to improve the participants’ weapon handling skills and to impart the participants with the necessary knowledge which they can teach their colleagues.”

Taking up the gauntlet

To whom much is given, much is also expected and in recognition of that fact, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, Marine Command, Alkali Baba Usman, while commending the navy, pledged to sustain the tempo.

Also, the Force Marine Officer (FMO) SP Chinedu Iwuozo, in an earlier function had harped on the need for such intensive trainings for their personnel. Speaking at the get together to felicitate with retired marine personnel at the Nigeria Police Marine Headquarters in Lagos, Iwuozo said such intensive trainings will enable the force combat challenges on the waterways across the country, which will aid them return to the mainstream of marine policing.

He said, “So many things are happening now that were not happening before – kidnapping, armed robbery, hijack even in the waterways, militancy and terrorism. These things are norms that were not there before. So now we have a lot of task springing up, which poses threats to national security. Therefore, we need to strategise.

“There are a lot of threats emanating from the waterways, just as a lot of interest is invested on the waterways especially in the Niger Delta and the Lagos axis because of the commercial activities and wealth of the nation that dwells within the waters.

“We have changing dynamics in criminality, hence there is need for us to position ourselves to get it better. Thus, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris has introduced the idea of adequate training for Marine Police Officers.

“Those are the aspects we really want to emphasise to ensure that we come back to the mainstream of things in terms of marine policing.”

Speaking at the ceremony, retired CSP Benjamin Emeofa commended the FMO and noted that such felicitation was worthy of emulation. “The occasion is the first of its kind for retired and serving members to interface.”

On the way forward for Force Marine Police, he urged: “Just like the conventional policemen, the military armed forces, if you watch the security nature that Nigeria is faced with today, you will discover that what we are facing in Nigeria is huge. We need adequate training to meet up with what the Marine Police are meant to perform.”

About the basic maritime operations course

The training covered areas like basic seamanship, introduction to basic communication, Rules of the Road (ROR),​International Humanitarian Law and Law of Armed conflict, chart work, search and rescue.

The next phase was the ‘Weapon Handling’ where they were taught on weapon safety rules, marksmanship principles, basic loading and unloading drills as well as stripping and assembling of small arms. The participants were thereafter assessed.

The last phase was the ‘Riverine Phase’, it covered craft recognition and familiarisation, boat handling skills and outboard motor maintenance, water survival skills (life jacket and Man Over Board drills), boat formations, pacing drills, Visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) techniques for vessels, waterborne guard post and beaching.