Given the astronomical rise of cases of Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) fishing in Nigeria's maritime domain, the Nigerian Navy (NN), yesterday said it has concluded plans with the Federal Department of Fisheries for the acquisition of dedicated vessels to contain the menace.
The Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, who was represented by the Naval Chief of Policy and Plans, Rear Admiral Beegroy Ibe-Enwo, made this disclosure in Lagos at the ongoing three-day Senior Leadership Symposium.
Comprising naval forces of 31 countries, including 20 African navies and 11 foreign countries, the event was part of the 2019 Obangame Express, hosted by the US Naval Forces Africa (US NAVAF).
Acknowledging the worsening security situation in the Gulf of Guinea (GoG), Ibas noted that collaboration between the navy, maritime stakeholders in the country and regional forces were addressing the issues, adding that 30 vessels were arrested last year, representing an improvement on the 37 and 45 arrests recorded in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
He said the Nigerian Navy had as of December 2018, handed over 247 cases to prosecuting agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), of which 51 had been successfully prosecuted.
"What is even more disturbing is that many of the activities associated with the evolving threat scenario are directed at the economic lifeline of both littoral and land-locked member states.
"In other words, the scourge of various forms of illegalities, such as sea robbery, piracy, crude oil theft, poaching, human and illicit trafficking of weapons and drugs among others constitute serious challenges to the development of all countries in our region.
"In prosecuting these threatening factors, the periodic assessment of the efforts is a credible tool. Accordingly, the interrogation of the implementation level of the Yaoundé Code of Conduct, a major regional framework for maritime security, is unarguably overdue at over six years of existence.
"As maritime insecurity progressively assumes transnational character, trans-border cooperation increasingly becomes the sine qua non in the mitigation of illicit maritime activities.
"The NN also engages regularly with stakeholders and has taken measures to enhance law enforcement within the maritime domain. One positive outcome of such consultation is the launch of the Harmonised Standard Operating Procedures (HSOP) on Arrest, Detention and Prosecution of Vessels and Persons (HSOP AD&P) in Nigeria's Maritime Environment in January 2017.
"Further to the launch, the NN constantly engages with the Office of the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF) on modalities for implementation while stakeholders meetings with private maritime logistic support companies and the oil and gas sub-sector are convened periodically.
"These engagements foster a shared vision on the accomplishment of maritime security tasks leading to the successful prosecution of 51 maritime crime related cases or about 20 per cent of the 247 cases which the NN handed over to prosecuting agencies such as EFCC and NSCDC as at December 2018.
"The NN's seamless collaboration with related agencies has helped to create effective deterrence to criminals through the arrest and prosecution of various criminals.
"Within the past three years, over 80 errant vessels have been arrested for various acts of illegality. MT TECNE and MT NIPAL were caught in the act stealing crude oil from the crude oil loading facilities in 2017 and 2018 respectively.
"Suffice to state that the NN arrested a total of 30 vessels in 2018 for involvement in various forms of illegality in the nation's maritime domain. This indicates on the face value a downward trend when compared with 37 and 45 arrests recorded in 2016 and 2017 respectively.
"These arrests have served as deterrence and helped to support a more buoyant national economy. For instance, NNPC data indicate that crude oil losses from pipelines reduced from N51.28 billion in 2015 to N4.17 billion in 2017."
On the international front, he acknowledged the contributions of allied nations, including the United States (US), United Kingdom (UK) and France for their support, which have been tailored towards encouraging and bolstering domestic and regional collaboration in practical terms and on sustainable basis.