Abuja — Nigerian Merchant Navy has called on President Umaru Yar'Adua to look more closely into the activities of the Nigerian Navy, particularly on issues of illegal importation of illegal arms, contraband and hard drugs into the country. Director-General of Nigerian Merchant Navy, Commodore Allen Edem, gave the charge in Abuja while reacting to a recent media report titled 'Navy uncovers plot to destabilise Nigeria', which was credited to the Director of Naval Information.
Edema rebuffed the report, describing it as "baseless tissues of lies meant to mislead the public, incite public hatred and misgiving against the Nigeria Merchant navy who go about their legitimate business within the law".
He said: "We make bold to clarify that what is happening now is not new, but a continuation of an ongoing war being waged by the Nigerian Navy against the Nigerian Merchant Navy since 2007, for seeking a role in maritime security in Nigeria and for seeking to contribute to curbing oil theft in the Niger Delta and stopping the importation of illegal arms, contrabands and hard drugs into Nigeria which the Nigerian Navy have so far not only woefully failed to achieve, but have also been complicit. Edema further stated that the recent media propaganda sponsored by Yemisi Kefas of the Lagos Liaison office to the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) was an "attempt by the Navy to shield Mrs Kefas from answering to summons by the Presidency, the Public Complaints commission sequel to a petition written against her by Commodore Edema for her unlawful seizure and illegal occupation of the offices of the Merchant Navy after the navy invaded the office in 2007."
"The Nigerian navy have been implicated in several criminal activities and acts of lawlessness incompatible with the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria. It is noticeable that for instance, the Nigerian Navy was involved in the disappearance of MT Ocean Challenger, popularly known as MT African Pride, Ocean Green and Ocean Blue three ships operating illegally in Nigeria and shipping crude through illegal under water pipelines and tapped from ashore." Edema also alleged that the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) was also responsible for diverting 5,000 vessels operating in Nigeria to foreigners, while the foreign (seamen) unions pay NIMASA $100 each to retain those foreign seamen on board, ships that were meant to crew Nigerian seamen. He also quoted Hassan Lawal, former Minister of Labour and Productivity as confirming that each of the ship carries 35 seamen multiplied by 5, 000. While justifying the activities of the agency, Edema explained that the Nigerian Merchant Navy has presented a bill entitled 'Nigerian Merchant Navy, Seafarers, Maritime/Petroleum Security to the National Assembly for passage into law. He maintained that the Nigerian Merchant Navy embarked on recruitment of numerous Nigerians and train them (not in weapon handling and military tactics) as claimed by the Navy but in seafaring and basic maritime safety and security.