The Coordinating Minister for the Economy and Minister of Finance, Mrs. Ngozi OKonjo-Iweala, has reiterated the commitment of the Federal Government to fight against crude oil theft and other forms of illegalities on the nation's waterways.
The minister made this disclosure yesterday at the inauguration of five newly acquired boats by the Nigerian Navy at the Western Naval Command (WNC), Apapa, Lagos.
The inauguration of the boats came seven months after President Goodluck Jonathan also inaugurated the first locally built warship, Nigerian Naval Ship (NNS) Andoni, and a year after the First Lady, Mrs Patience Jonathan, also inaugurated the nation's flag ship, NNS Thunder F90.
The boats identified as OCEA and SHALDAG were acquired from France and Israel respectively and was expected to stem the rising surge in piracy and crude oil theft especially in the nation's maritime domain.
During the occasion, about 42 hilux van were given to Naval Warrant officers as a motivating factor in the discharge of their duties and would form part of their entitlements of retirement from the service.
Dignitaries at the occasion were the Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Olusola Obada; Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim; the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba; and the service chiefs from the Air Force and Police, Air Marshal Alex Badeh and Mohammed Abubakar, respectively.
Others include the Chairman, Senate Committee on Navy, Senator Chris Anyanwu; Chief of Policy and Panning, Rear Admiral Emmanuel Ogbor; the Special Adviser on Security Matters to Lagos State Government, Major Babatunde Panox (rtd.); the Oba of Lagos, Oba Rilwanu Akiolu; and other senior officers.
Speaking further, OKonjo-Iweala said the Federal Government decided to fund the project because most of the resources of the country were from the maritime sector.
While commending her counterpart, Obada and the CNS, she said they reached a bargain that before the Federal Government would pump in more money, the NN had to show us results of what they have done.
She added that the president was satisfied with what the NN is doing in the maritime sector, especially dealing with the activities of all forms of illegalities in the sea hence the deployment of resources to purchase more boats for its routine patrols.
She said: "They came with drafts and charts to show what they are doing to reduce illegal oil theft and the reason why they needed the boats and we felt convinced why we should out money and muscle behind it.
"I am personally delighted at what has been achieved and I urge them to continue to work hard so that we can see results. With the acquisition, it is to show that the president is totally behind the Armed Forces."
While fielding questions from journalists, Ezeoba said for the force to effectively deal with the scourge of oil theft, sea robbery and piracy, the navy would require a minimum of 40 of these class of boats in order to dominate the vast expanse of the nation's territorial waters, especially in the current emerging security challenges in the maritime domain.
He said: "We would deploy the boats in the Brass corridor where we have high rate of crude oil theft and pipe line vandalism. With this, we are sure we will checkmate all these illegal activities and reduce it to the barest minimum.
"Though the boats are small, they are fast. They are designed for security tasks such as interdiction, anti-smuggling, anti-illegal bunkering, sea robbery and piracy."
In her keynote address, Obada said the acquisition of the new boats would help build the capacity of the NN to ensure effective security in the nation's maritime domain.
She noted that although she was aware of the constraints militating against the efforts of the NN to optimally discharge its statutory duties, especially in the security of the maritime domain, it was however gladdening at their dedication despite the challenges.
The minister assured the naval authorities of the unflinching support of the Federal Government as they discharge the onerous responsibility of maritime security, adding that the new acquisitions are parts of Federal Government's effort to reposition the service.
She said: "The acquisition is part of the government's effort to reposition the NN for enhanced operational effectiveness and this initiative of the NN leadership has reinforced my impression about their high level of competence and commitment."
On her part, Anyanwu expressed happiness over the acquisition, noting that the force still needed more and other bigger vessels that have the capacity to go far into the sea to fight the activities of pirates.