Arrests two ships, query 15 over illegal activities
A ONE-WEEK onslaught against crude oil theft and other illegal activities on sea by the army, navy and air force has led to the arrest of two oil tankers and interrogation of 15 others at the Gulf of Guinea.
The raid tagged ‘Exercise FARAUTA’ was sequel to the mandate by President Goodluck Jonathan when he appointed two new service chiefs, urging the military to get rid of oil thieves from Nigeria’s seaways.
The Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, who was on board the Nigerian Navy ship ‘Thunder’, led the operation at sea.
“We interrogated 17 vessels at sea, out of which, we found two culpable. Some would have to explain as per the quantity of the petroleum they have on board, some were in excess of what was approved and one of the other vessels did not have any documentation at all. It is important to note that this exercise would continue. For us to continue to do what we are supposed to do, it is important we get all the support we can get from government. The navy needs to be encouraged. Crude oil thieves and pirates have already seen the signals and they don’t have a choice than to leave our waters,” Ezeoba said.
According to him, “We have the requisite technology in this fleet evaluation. An aircraft was at sea with us for seven days. In terms of surveillance driven by technology, we have the capability. What we lack is the real time transfer of data to the ship out at sea, so we have to wait at some point to use voice communication. Effort is ongoing to domesticate in our capability for support equipment so that whatever data will get to us real time.
“We must appreciate the prices the officers and men of the armed forces have paid, some even paid with their lives and we have to appreciate their effort.”
Gunshots and bombs were fired sporadically by the eight war ships deployed for the exercise to inform the sea criminals that the navy had come to take its place at sea.
According to the naval chief who addressed reporters in Port Harcourt after the one-week raid, “the exercise would enable the Nigerian navy to assess its operational capability with a view to identifying gaps and taking necessary measures to fill such gaps for enhanced operational readiness.
“In pursuance of Mr. President, Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces mandate to the Nigeria Navy to do all it can to stamp out the prevalence of illegal maritime activities, particularly crude oil theft, illegal bunkering and piracy in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the Nigerian Navy carried out this major fleet evaluation exercise code-named ‘Exercise FARAUTA’, meaning hunting in Hausa parlance.
“The core aim of the exercise is to intensify the ongoing naval operations in the Niger Delta region with emphasis on Bonny- Akassa-Escravos axis, an area notorious for crude oil theft.”
A total of eight war ships, six gunboats and three helicopters, including the Nigerian Army and Maritime Patrol Aircraft of the Nigerian Air Force helped to ensure the success of the exercise.
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