Category Archives: MARITIME CRIME
On 28 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that armed pirates opened fire on a cargo ship off the Nigerian coast, kidnapped the captain and chief engineer, and robbed the crew before fleeing. The attack also left one of the 14 crew members missing and another injured.
Noel Choong, head of the IMB’s piracy reporting centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, said about eight gunmen attacked the Dutch-owned, Curacao-flagged refrigerated cargo ship near the coast. He said he had received no word yet on any ransom demands.
The IMB said this incident is a continuation of serial piracy attacks in the Gulf of Guinea. In September 2011, the group had warned that the seas off the Republic of Benin, Nigeria’s neighbour to the west, were becoming a new piracy “hotspot”, partly due to the deficiencies of maritime security arrangements in the region.
Choong said: “The attacks off the Nigerian coast are very violent and they are increasing, So far we have seen seven attacks off Nigeria this year and one off Benin. So that makes eight since the beginning of the year and we believe many more attacks may have gone unreported”.
However, in one of the recent incidents in which a tanker was hijacked, the IMB said Nigerian security vessels intercepted the ship and rescued its crew.
On 13 February, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reported that pirates had shot dead the captain and the chief engineer on a cargo ship off the coast of Nigeria.
A notice on the IMB website said: “Armed pirates chased and fired upon a drifting bulk carrier. Vessel raised alarm and headed towards Lagos. All crew except the bridge team took shelter in the citadel. Due to the continuous firing, the captain and the chief engineer were shot”.
The website notice said this incident, which occurred about 110 nautical miles (126 miles) south of Lagos, is the latest in a string of attacks on vessels off the Nigerian coast.
On 9 February, pirates hijacked a tanker about 80 nautical miles (92 miles) from Cotonou, capital of Nigeria’s westward neighbour, the Republic of Benin, the bureau said. Again on Saturday, 11 February, a cargo ship about 70 nautical miles (80 miles) from Lagos, was shot at by pirates on two boats, who chased it for 25 minutes before giving up.
Last year, the IMO reported a 28 percent increase in pirate attacks on vessels off the West African coast, compared to a year earlier. It said 64 attacks were reported in 2011, up from 46 in 2010.
The gunmen struck at night, near the company’s vast Agbami oil field, about 70 nautical miles offshore from Bayelsa State. Chevron company sources said eight gunmen boarded the ship, MV C-Endeavour, attacked the crew and seized three sailors. They said the ship belonged to a contractor company, Edison Chouest Offshore, based in Galliano, Louisiana, in the United States. One source reported that the abducted sailors were foreigners, but this was yet to be confirmed.
The Agbami field, with a production capacity of up to 250,000 barrels a day, is Nigeria’s biggest offshore oil field, according to Chevron.
The incident is the latest in a surge of attacks on ships in the Niger Delta and further afield in the Gulf of Guinea recently. On 30 September, a sailor was kidnapped from a ship supplying an Exxon oil platform in Akwa Ibom State. On 8 October, pirates seized an oil tanker, the MT Cape Bird, with its 20-member Eastern European crew, 90 nautical miles off the coast of Lagos; they released them unharmed after five days in captivity.
On 17 October, a 17-man armed gang attacked an ExxonMobil-chartered vessel, AHST Wilbert Tide, near the company’s Oso gas field offshore Bonny in Rivers State, abducting the master sailor, a Bangladeshi. Another vessel, Joan Chouest, was also attacked in the same area around the same time as the WIlbert Tide.
Analysts and maritime industry operators are concerned that these attacks may signify an increase in organized, oil-related criminality in the Niger Delta.
On 10 November, the State Security Service (SSS) paraded five men, arrested for allegedly hijacking a Lagos-bound vessel, Roasa Tomasos. The men were led by a former naval officer, Lawrence Adesanya, who retired as a Lieutenant Commander (equivalent to Major in the Nigerian Army).
Briefing newsmen at the agency’s state headquarters in Lagos, the SSS’ Deputy Director, Public Relations, Mrs. Marilyn Ogar, said: “On November 3, 2011, a Lagos-bound vessel named Roasa Tomasos, containing 26,000 metric tonnes of Premium Motor Spirit (petrol), was hijacked by suspected sea pirates while approaching Lagos”.
“However, on November 6, 2011, we (SSS) successfully recovered the vessel and its content intact, while the suspects, who are members of a notorious gang of pirates, were apprehended. They include: Lawrence Adesanya (the retired Lt. Cmdr.), Teke Abaka, Lucky Momoh and Philip Kokoh. Two other suspects – Abenego Abaka and a lawyer, referred to simply as Felix – are still at large. They have been declared wanted”.
The SSS spokesperson said further investigations revealed that the suspects, led by Adesanya, were also “responsible for the hijack of a vessel named Cape Bird, carrying 32,000 metric tonnes of Automated Gas Oil (diesel), belonging to Sahara Energy Resources on October 7, 2011. It is suspected that the gang escaped with eight metric tonnes of the product”. She said the suspects usually hijacked vessels around the Niger Delta and diverted them to a location near Lagos where they had ready buyers.
Ogar said investigations were still ongoing and that the suspects would soon be charged to court. She also urged citizens to avoid any acts that could harm the Nigeria’s image, but rather to be security-conscious and assist law enforcement agencies with information that could aid them in enhancing security.
On 4 September, three persons were killed, two reported missing while 10 were rescued after a ship with 15 sailors onboard exploded off Nigeria’s territorial waters. All the three killed were Indians.
According to a spokesperson for the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Mr Lami Tumaka, the ship, ITB Jacksonville, was 17 nautical miles off the Apapa port in Lagos, when the incident happened. Lagos is Nigeria’s largest commercial centre and the Apapa port is the leading recipient of its import cargo.
The cause of the explosion is not yet known, but Tumaka said the ship had leaked a yet-to-be-confirmed substance into the water. He said the vessel went up in flames after the big explosion in its engine room as it approached Lagos.
The NIMASA spokesman said three bodies were later recovered through a search and rescue operation, but that two were still missing. He said the 10 persons rescued, all Indians, were taken to a hospital in Apapa for emergency medical attention.
Tumaka further said the origin of the vessel had not yet been ascertained, due to contradictory indications. He said while the ship was flying a Liberian flag, the documents found on it read Panama.
NIMASA is the Nigerian government agency responsible for maritime safety administration, maritime labour regulation, marine pollution prevention and control, search and rescue, cabotage enforcement, shipping development and ship registration, training and certification of seafarers, and maritime capacity development.
On 11 August, President Goodluck Jonathan received his counterpart from neighbouring Republic of Benin, President Boni Yayi, and discussed proposals towards fighting growing piracy in the waters of their two countries. The meeting follows the recent alert issued by the Benin president, that pirates were threatening the security of his country’s waters and operations at its port.
Before leaving his country’s capital, Cotonou, for the Abuja meeting, Yayi had indicated that the meeting would be part of preparations for a larger summit of Gulf of Guinea countries to deal with the menace of piracy along the West African coast. He had said: “I am going to Nigeria to sort out this piracy issue. I have contacted the United Nations Secretary-General for the holding of a large summit of the countries of the Gulf, at the end of which a formal request will be sent to the Security Council”.
At the end of the meeting between the two leaders in Abuja, a statement from Jonathan’s office said: “Boni Yayi had informed.…Jonathan that pirates and bandits were threatening the security of ports in that country and the Gulf of Guinea coastline”. The statement also said that Yayi had, during the meeting, “called for concerted action, led by Nigeria, to check this menace”.
In his reply, Jonathan said Nigeria would cooperate with neighbouring countries to fight cross-border security challenges, including banditry, terrorism and piracy.
The statement quoted the Nigerian president as saying that: “Criminals don’t respect political boundaries in their nefarious activities, so we will cooperate with one another to find lasting solutions to the problems they pose”. He also assured Yayi that, in due course, relevant Nigerian officials will be in contact with their Benin counterparts, to find appropriate ways to deal with the piracy challenge.
The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) reports that Benin and Nigeria recorded 18 pirate attacks in the first half of 2011. About 15 of these occurred off the waters of Republic of Benin, where there had been no incidents in 2010. Most of the recent attacks were thwarted by the Benin navy, but they are already taking a toll on port activities and revenue earnings in Cotonou. And there are fears that the situation could grow worse.
On 31 July, the National Security Adviser to the President, General Andrew Azazi (rtd) stated that a security policy was being formulated for the country.
In a report by the Lagos-based newspaper, The Guardian, following a wide-ranging interview, Gen Azazi acknowledged that the country is currently facing several security challenges; but he gave an assurance that the Federal Government was addressing the challenges, this time on a permanent basis.
He said the government was on the verge of unveiling a comprehensive National Security Reform agenda, which would include a first-ever national security policy.
He also said the reform agenda will be comprehensive, factoring in all major security challenges. He said the provisions of the national security policy would be holistic, including such issues as human capital development and the protection of critical national infrastructure.
He also said the processes of security policy formulation and administration would be more participatory, harnessing the interests and expertise of enlightened civil society. On the calls for establishment of state police forces as the panacea to all the nation’s security challenges, the NSA said he did not think that idea should be accorded priority consideration in the present circumstances. He said he did not “think the solution to the problems should start from the police”.
The following are some of General Azazi’s thoughts as excerpted and paraphrased from the report:
ON THE NATIONAL SECURITY POLICY BEING FORMULATED:
“This security strategy is in the sense that, as a nation, you must work within a certain template, put the process together, and document it for people to follow up. We have security issues but we have not tried (to address them in) a comprehensive form, where you bring all the issues together”.
“What I’ve done so far is identification of key issues and some of the ingredients and to see how they can be put together as a strategy. I’ve talked publicly about putting in place a strategy to assess critical national infrastructure with the hope of having a plan, having standards as to how security could be put in place at that level. We talked of porous borders and maritime security. I’ve also talked about crisis management. If there is a crisis, what are the roles (that) elements in the society play in the whole procedure?”
“If you want to put a security strategy in place, there are contending issues that you have to address immediately. (But) in addressing all these things, you also don’t want to be in a hurry and not put all these things together”.
ON CIVIL SOCIETY PARTICIPATION IN SECURITY SECTOR REFORM:
“My concept, from the beginning, has been that we should go beyond secrecy in security and accept public participation because, at the end of the day, a security strategy should look at national objectives and how the nation could make progress without any hindrance”.
“(So) when you talk of national security, you must also talk of public participation. The enlightened civil society and the academia must contribute to identifying how we want to think of security as a nation. Security must focus on protection of the society and participation of everybody in the society.
ON THE PREPARING SECURITY AGENCIES FOR UNFORESEEN CHALLENGES:
“When 9/11 happened in the US, they re-jigged their security architecture; the same in the UK; they really tried to readjust to get what they wanted.
“That’s what we are doing: train more policemen, review the deficiencies in the intelligence structure, in the information collection structure. Can we train members of state security system who could be more proactive? Yes, we can. It’s a process that’s going on and at the end of the day, it’ll be more effective.”
ON POLICE REFORM:
“The Police have a reform platform we must look at, to see how we could transform the Police.
“We are talking of community policing and the Police have been working with DFID (Department for International Development — that leads the UK government’s fight against world poverty) and they’ve done it successfully in a few places. But what we must have is a comprehensive plan in addressing the issues all over. There’s agreement between the Police, my office and DFID: that we must get together to make sure there’s a plan that we will work with.
“On the Police reform agenda, my discussion with the Inspector General (IG) is that: All the documents that you have, let’s put them together and think of police transformation, the structure, command and control, (and also) looking at the average policeman and making him more effective. If you don’t identify the individual policeman and train him to be more proficient, it is all still a drop in the ocean. I think we are trying to see how the transformation plan could address the average policeman.
ON IMPROVING POLICE INTELLIGENCE SKILLS AND CAPABILITY
The IG is actually planning to establish an intelligence school because he believes that when he sends policemen to other intelligence schools, they don’t satisfy their operational requirements. But they have a department for intelligence anyway. It is functional. It may not be the best of what you deserve; that’s why he is establishing an intelligence school.”
ON CALLS FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF STATE POLICE FORCES AS SOLUTION TO SECURITY CHALLENGES
“When you have a problem, you think of the best way to solve it and I don’t think the solution to the problem should start from the police. The society must be ready to take a look at itself again. You can look at yourself and say: What are the deficiencies? Where do you want to go?
“I was asked this question (about State Police) at the National Assembly and I replied that: If you want state policing, you must put all cards on the table and discuss the best way for Nigeria. Even if you decide to have State Police today, there must be a gradual process. (For now), you identify our deficiencies and keep to the level that is acceptable for our security”.
On 20 June, gunmen suspected to be pirates shot dead two patrol policemen along a waterway used by vessels servicing oil and gas companies off Bayelsa State.
According to the Public Relations Officer of the Police in Bayelsa State, Mr Eguavoen Emokpae, the suspected sea pirates laid ambush for the marine policemen in the waterways of Swali in Yenagoa, and killed two of them.
While an amnesty programme introduced by the Federal Government in 2009 had virtually ended the armed insurgency waged by militant groups in the region, there are continuing concerns over incidents of criminal violence in the maritime environment.
For the first quarter of this year, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) recorded five incidents of piracy and armed robbery in Nigerian waters. Although IMB said three of these occurred against vessels in the Lagos area, it also noted that “information from the Norwegian-based Bergen Risks Solutions suggests that a further six unconfirmed incidents took place in the Niger Delta”.
On 7 June, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Hafiz Ringim, handed over six new patrol boats to the Marine Department of the Lagos State Police Command, to strengthen security in the coastal areas of the state.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony held at the Marine Police Headquarters in Ikoyi, Lagos, Mr Ringim said the provision of the boats was in recognition of the special security challenges facing Lagos as the nation’s largest commercial centre.
The police chief said that following his tour of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) facilities and tank farms in January, it became imperative to add six additional back-up boats for effective patrol of the facilities. He said there was a critical need to secure federal and private property in the state, citing in particular the NNPC facilities along the coast line at Atlas Cove, Ibafon, Badagry, Epe, Apapa, Ijora Coal, Marina and even some nautical miles offshore.
He said: “With the inauguration of these gunboats, I expect that the police in Lagos will be able to provide adequate security for all Federal Government installations and vital public and private assets along the riverside areas.”
The Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, who was at the occasion, praised the IGP for meeting the demand of the Lagos Police Command for more gunboats. Reiterating his own administration’s commiment to fighting crime in the state, he said: “Crime has no place in our society, so we will invest very deeply and extensively in crime prevention, to boost the capacity of security personnel”. He further disclosed that the Lagos State Security Trust Fund (LSSTF) was also planning to purchase additional gunboats for police in the state.
The Commissioner of Police in Lagos State, Mr Yakubu Alkali, pledged that the marine police will serve Lagosians better, particularly the residents of Ikoyi, VictoriaIsland and Lekki Peninsula.
On 10 May, the Nigerian Navy launched three newly-acquired Manta boats, combat vessels specially designed to tackle piracy and other related criminal maritime activities.
According to the Commanding Officer, Nigerian Nayy Ship Beecroft in Apapa, Lagos, Commodore Jonathan Ango, the boats were purchased from Vietnam and would complement the existing vessels in the Navy’s fleet.
Ango said: “The boats are equipped to combat any threat in the Nigerian maritime domain” such as piracy, illegal oil bunkering and illegal fishing. He further stated that: “The combat vessels have high speed and adequate firepower to address the challenges in the maritime sector. The boats are designed to combat criminal activities in the sea, especially criminals who attack ships, waylay fishing trawlers and make the waterways unsafe”.
He further stated that the new boats will replace some old ones in the fleet which are now over 30 years.