Navy Chief Calls for Comprehensive Database for Maritime Criminals

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Chiemelie Ezeobi

The Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo yesterday  advocated for a database for maritime criminals, especially pirates, given the intensity and trans-national nature of maritime crimes within the region.

He posited that the fight against maritime crimes like piraczzy, crude oil theft and pipeline vandalism, amongst others, require a more diligent record and data capturing identity of perpetrators.

Gambo noted that most of the criminals migrate to other countries within the sub-region to continue their activities once they have been arrested, convicted and done their times, thus the need for a comprehensive database.

The CNS, who spoke at the 10th SECUREX West Africa, an international security exhibition held in Lagos, delivered a keynote paper titled, “Protecting Critical National Infrastructure: Tackling Maritime Crimes; Protecting Nigeria’s Ports.”

He said: “Despite the Nigerian Navy’s (NN) effort at ensuring that maritime crimes are reduced, new challenges continue to unfold due to the dynamic nature of criminals.

“The intensity and trans-national nature of maritime crimes within the region requires a more diligent record and data capturing identity of perpetrators.

“Sadly, lack of adequate database on identified criminals has allowed perpetrators of maritime crimes to relocate from one country to the other without being identified. 

“Some persons who have been prosecuted for maritime crimes on completion of their jail terms have resumed their criminal activities in other countries unnoticed.

“This gap within the West African sub-region needs to be given more attention and addressed.

“ Clearly, with improved database and information sharing on persons prosecuted for maritime crimes, it would be easier to track and apprehend such persons, should they continue to live a life of crime.

“It is instructive to state that since events at sea would always be driven by activities on land, it would be necessary to address issues of unemployment, poverty and illiteracy, otherwise threats to critical infrastructure especially at sea could remain.

“It is envisaged that the threats may mutate in form and structure depending on where the naval forces are most effective. This brings to fore the need for a viable naval force in other countries within the GoG so as to establish credible presence within our collective maritime domain.”

However, he said the navy has continued to refine its procedures in terms of strategy, operations concepts and doctrinal practices, adding that it also ensures ports facilities protection through the Secured Anchorage Area initiative in collaboration with the Nigeria Ports Authority (NPA).

Meanwhile, the CNS revealed that the  Nigerian Navy arrested 117 suspects and seized six vessels over alleged theft of petroleum products in the last five weeks.

He said the arrests and seizures were recorded by operatives deployed for Operation Dakatar Da Barawo(Stop the Thief), a reinvigorated battle against crude oil thieves, illegal refiners and pipeline saboteurs.

According to him, 51 illegal refining sites were deactivated, 563 metal storage tanks crushed and 341 dug out pits destroyed within the same period, re-echoing that economic saboteurs were denied over 17,793,432 litres of crude oil, 5,490,670 litres of illegally refined AGO, and 129,000 litres of DPK, all valued at over N10.7billion.

Re-emphasising the importance of the maritime industry to the nation’s economic wellbeing, Gambo said: “Nigeria’s maritime environment constitutes about 12 per cent of the entire Gulf of Guinea.  Sea-borne trade accounts for over 85 per cent of total trade with the rest of the world. 

“The country has about 36 trillion barrels and 182 trillion cubic feet of oil and gas reserves with the capacity to produce about 2.4 million barrels and 8 billion cubic feet of oil and gas respectively per day. 

“Furthermore, oil companies operate in excess of 5,779 wells, 9,717km of pipelines, 112 flow stations, 16 gas plants and 126 production platforms offshore.

“Thus, the maritime industry with associated infrastructure occupies prominent position in the matrix of Nigeria’s vital economic interest (though hardly recognised) as it encompasses activities ranging from shipping, fishing and resource exploration amongst others. 

“The industry, known to shelter numerous infrastructure is strategic to Nigeria’s survival, prosperity and sustenance of her enviable position among comity of nations.

“ Therefore, any impediment therein would have undesirable consequences on the nation’s economic survival and by implication the Gulf of Guinea.”