In a resolute move to stamp out smuggling, piracy, oil theft, and other illicit activities plaguing the maritime space, the Western Naval Command (WNC) of the Nigerian Navy (NN), Thursday launched Operation Water Guard (OP WG).
Deployed for the operation were four capital ships – Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) KADA, KANO, ABA and NGURU, as well as DB Vessel.
Also, three NN Helicopters, four NN Interceptor Boats, quad bikes, were deployed, all showcasing the navy’s robust capabilities in safeguarding Nigeria’s maritime space and the Gulf of Guinea
Prominent features of the operation include interdiction, beach patrols, VBSS, cordon and search, all geared towards sustained presence at sea to eliminate other maritime crimes.
Flagged off by the WNC Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Rear Admiral Mustapha Hassan, at Ashipa Beach, Badagry axis of Lagos State, THISDAY gathered that it was in response to escalating maritime threats in that area of responsibility (AOR).
According to Hassan, OP WG is a strategic initiative aligned with the NN’s mandate to ensure the safety of Nigeria’s maritime environment, adding that the operation specifically targets the Badagry water and land axis around Ashipa, a border community to Benin Republic.
Already, the NN personnel of the Forward Operating Base (FOB) Badagry, under the command of Captain Aiwuyor Adams-Aliu has arrested contraband goods particularly Premium Motor Spirit, drugs and foreign parboiled rice worth billions of naira from smugglers across the border.
In the period of March 2023 to October under review, the FOB Badagry had effected seven arrests, seized 59, 640 litres of PMS, 98 bags of foreign rice, and 40 bags of Cannabis Sativa also known as Marijuana, all valued at N81,267,400.
Given the increasing capacity of smuggled petroleum products, the FOC said these could have affected availability of petroleum products as well as jeopardised efforts of small and medium scale enterprises.
Also, he added that the hard drugs in particular could have further affected health and stability of the citizens.
Thus, he said eradicating these menace prompted the operation, which covers the maritime environment and adjoining land areas.
Fielding questions after the flag off, Rear Admiral Hassan further stated that the operation would ensure the nation’s maritime domain would be conducive during the yuletide period and beyond.
Soliciting for support, especially from the host communities, he further mentioned that the operation would not add to already established check points along the road but intelligence led checks would complement the sustained presence at sea.
Pertinently, intelligence facilities deployed by Navy has already revealed perpetrators’ hideouts, showcasing images and videos capturing jerrycans stored in houses.
Apart from the fact that it is economic sabotage, he said it also poses treats of fire with consequences on life and property, which the NN remains resolute to abate.
He said: “Operation WATER GUARD stands as a testament to the Nigerian Navy’s unwavering commitment to maritime security, under the leadership of the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, marking a pivotal moment in the ongoing efforts to protect the nation’s waters and ensure a safer maritime environment.”
Also speaking, the Commander NNS BEECROFT, Commodore Kolawole Oguntuga, said the deployment of troops and platforms will be sustained until the smuggling cartel is smoked out and stamped out.
He further noted that beyond intelligence-led patrol, the operation will rely on the Falcon Eye’s Maritime Domain Awareness to cover all areas at sea.
Not dismissing the role of middle men and buyers in the smuggling syndicate, he said the Navy will also go after them, as that will quickly fizzle out the racket of the smugglers.
Other senior officers at the flag off were the Fleet Commander, WNC, Commodore VD Choji and Commodore NS Lakan, the Command Operations Officer.