Insecurity: Armed Forces Must Stand United, Says Naval Chief

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Kingsley Nwezeh in Abuja

The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ekwe Ibas, yesterday declared that the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) must remain united in order to contain spiraling insecurity in the country.

The Naval Chief who spoke on the occasion the 2019 Navy Week Juma’t Prayer held at the Defence Headquarters Mosque, Abuja, part of  this year’s Navy Week Celebrations, said the Nigerian Navy had commenced negotiations with some European countries, for the acquisition of a 100-metre Landing Ship Tank (LST) that would culminate in its procurement by 2020.

Ibas said the Armed Forces must stand united and support the federal government in confronting current national security threats.

“As members of the Armed Forces, we must all stand united and ready to give our all in support of federal government’s effort to confront the current national security threats, regardless of where they may occur, at sea or on land.

“I therefore take the opportunity to remind you of your sacred duty to continue to remain committed to the defence of your country. Clearly, with such strong resolve, sacrifice and the unity of purpose, the current challenges would soon be a thing of the past,” he said.

A landing ship tank  is the naval designation for ships supporting amphibious operations or land forces by carrying tanks, vehicles, aircraft, cargo with capacity to land troops directly on to shore without docks or piers.

The  Naval Chief  said aside the LST, the Navy was working towards  acquiring four units of 17-metre fast interceptor boats which are expected to be delivered by November 2019 even it was  expecting the delivery of an offshore (Hydrographical) Survey Vessel) in Dec 2019.

He said the Nigerian Navy through its nine Naval Security Stations (NSS) spread across major routes in the maritime domain where crude oil theft and illegal refining activities were known to be most prevalent, were curtailed.

He said efforts were ongoing to acquire more helicopters for the Nigerian Navy air arm.

“A major impediment to the efficiency of the Nigerian Navy at enhancing maritime security had remained the inadequacy of effectors to respond to maritime security incidents.

“Within the period under review (2015-2019), this impediment has received constant and continuous attention through the acquisition of more platforms. Noteworthy is the acquisition of two OPVs (offshore patrol vessels), NNS Centenary and NNS Unity from China. The NN also commissioned its second locally built Seaward Defence Boat (SDB), NNS Karaduwa during the period.

“Furthermore, 6 OCEA SDBs namely NNS Nguru, Shiroro, Ekulu, Ose, Gongola and Calabar were procured while over 200 riverine patrol boats were inducted for seaward and riverine operations.

On fight against maritime criminality, he said: “a major achievement of the Navy during the period under review is the reduction in pirate/sea robbery attacks within Nigerian waters.

“This achievement is largely attributable to the dedicated naval operation code-named Op Tsare Teku, activated in April 2016. The Operation is aimed at combating attacks on shipping and other illegal activities within Nigeria’s maritime domain.

“Since the activation of the operation, there has been a reduction in reported cases of pirate/sea robbery attacks within Nigeria’s maritime domain”.

He said statistics showed that “ in 2016, a total of 77 pirate attacks were reported with 37 representing 48 per cent of the attacks unsuccessful. This reduced to 40 attacks in 2017 out of which 26 representing 65 per cent were unsuccessful, while 60 per cent of the 35 attacks reported in 2018 were also unsuccessful.

“The significant improvement in security of shipping in Nigeria’s maritime environment is attributable to the contributions of Op Tsare Teku as well as the provision of dedicated maritime security by Private Maritime Logistics Support Companies (PMLSC).

“This was attested to by the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Shippers’ Council who stated that the increase in maritime activities is evident in the 10,673 vessel calls at Nigerian Ports with a gross registered tonnage of over 329 million between 2016 and 2018.

Ibas said “another major operational achievement of the Navy is the reduction in the losses occasioned by crude oil theft. This is reflective in the steady increase in the nation’s income from sales of crude.

“Although not all the losses are as a result of theft, as sometimes, there are losses due to shut downs, which sometimes are a direct consequence of pipeline vandalism. The success of NN anti-crude oil theft operations is partly due to the Choke Point Management and Control Regime emplaced in March 2016 and Operation River Sweep that was activated in January 2017”.

He said “the Choke Point regime involves deployment of armed personnel in houseboats in strategic locations within the creeks supported by patrol boats.

“Although 37 strategic locations were identified, only nine houseboats otherwise known as Naval Security Stations (NSS) have been deployed in areas where crude oil theft and illegal refining activities are known to be most prevalent.

“Since the introduction of the Choke Point Control Regime, several arrests have been made, leading to the destruction of barges and other vessels used for conveying stolen crude oil as well as illegally refined products. For instance, a total of 210 storage tanks and 181 wooden boats were destroyed in 2016, while 2,268 storage tanks and 184 wooden boats were destroyed in 2017”.

The Navy said “in 2018, 1,994 storage tanks and 176 wooden boats were destroyed, while as at today, 1,696 storage tanks and 324 wooden boats have been destroyed.

“The increase in the relatively large number of storage tanks and wooden boats destroyed is attributable to the success of the Choke Point Management Regime which has made it near impossible to move stolen products out to sea.

“Accordingly, the criminal elements are forced to find alternative markets for the stolen products, including the setting up of illegal refineries”.

The Naval boss said that Op River Sweep was activated primarily to address increasing activities of illegal refiners, particularly in Delta and Rivers States

“The Operation involves air surveillance, insertion of Special Forces, pulling down of located illegal refining sites with the use of swamp buggies as well as arrest/destruction of boats and barges found in such locations.

“For instance, a total of 140 illegal refineries were destroyed between Jun and Dec 15. In 2016, this number reduced to 128 but increased to 1,221 refineries in 2017 with the activation of Op River Sweep.

“In 2018, a total of 637 refineries were destroyed while 220 refineries have been destroyed as at today. The reduction in the number of refineries located since 2018 is attributable to the success of Op River Sweep, which resulted in the destruction of about 274,661 barrels of crude oil, 23,533,768 litres of AGO, 23,560,255 litres of PMS and 557,237 litres of DPK in 2017”.

He maintained that “in 2018, approximately 277,040 barrels of crude oil, 23.1 Million litres of AGO, 212,610 litres of PMS and 1.2 million litres of DPK were destroyed. Additionally, 216,646.05 barrels of crude oil, 40.9 million litres of AGO, 983,788 litres of DPK and 23.6 Million litres of PMS have been destroyed as at today.

“The success of these NN operations was attested to by the management of NNPC in its report on pipeline losses between 2008

and 2017 as highlighted on the screen.

“The report estimated the total product losses due to pipeline vandalism at N21.48 billion, N38.88 billion, N44.75 billion and N51.28 billion in 2012, 2013, 2014

and 2015 respectively”.

“However, in 2016 and 2017, the losses due to pipeline vandalism were N2.67 billion and N4.11 billion respectively. This marked reduction is largely attributable to the introduction of the Choke Point regime and Op River Sweep.

“Notwithstanding the operational success of the operations, there is the need for NNPC to impress on the oil companies to emplace more effective surveillance/monitoring mechanisms on their crude oil pipeline networks”, he said..

He noted further that “during the period in focus, NN arrested a total of 25 smuggling boats cumulatively laden with a total of 26,984 bags of rice out of which about 5,500 were arrested this year.

“The anti-smuggling operations led to the arrest of a total of 197 suspected smugglers operating in Akwa Ibom and Cross River States. Accordingly, the arrested smugglers, boats and products were handed over to Nigeria Customs Service for appropriate action.

“The achievements of the NN in curbing smuggling activities are attributed to the renewed drive towards eradicating rice smuggling in support of the FG policy on local rice production.”

On the Navy’s 63rd anniversary programme, he said,  inter-denominational church services were also programmed to hold in all naval commands.

“In keeping with tradition, the ceremonial sunset will include a display of the ceremonial band of the NN and a salute to the lowering of the Ensign.

“It is pertinent to state that throughout the period of the NN 63rd Anniversary Celebration and as operational demands would permit, all capital ships of the NN will be dressed overall with flags and be lit at night.