By Tunde Adetunji, Abuja
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas has said within the last six months, over 500 illegal refineries operating at various locations in the creeks of the Niger Delta region have been shut-down by the Nigerian Navy.
Ibas made this known yesterday at the Nigerian Navy Headquarters in Abuja shortly after a closed door meeting with the Managing Director of the Nigeria Ports Authority, (NPA), Hajiya Hadiza Bala Usman who came on a courtesy visit.
Ibas who lauded his men for their commitment to security and safety of the Nigerian Maritime domain said the shut-down of the refineries was more than what was recorded in the past two years.
He said: “ What is happening is that once you focus on the activities of pirates and other criminals in the maritime sector, you see them run away and begin to struggle for survival in other areas. To some extent we have been able to curtail them and their nefarious activities in the maritime sector.
“In the past six months we have been able to shut down about 500 illegal refineries and this is more than what has been achieved in the past two years.”
He said the Nigerian Navy remains a critical partner with the NPA and would continue to seek the support of the NPA to enable it deliver on its mandate. He added that the Navy would want the issue of Warri and Calabar channels be addressed as they are critical to the operations of its personnel.
“We are concern about issues of safety and security, particularly in major waterways. The Warri and Calabar Channels need urgent attention, our operations suffer when we cannot use these channels as expected.
“We also expect that the Safe Transit Corridor (STC) initiative would address some of these areas so that critical vessels can be escorted to safety in the Nigerian Maritime domain. To curtail the menace of sea pirates and robbers, we have set up a task force to focus attention in those areas identified as flash points for pirates’ attacks and sea robbery.
“And I am happy that in the last few months we have been able to subdue them. We are also talking with stakeholders on how best we could provide adequate security for critical consignments moving from the east to the west.
“We also appreciate the NPA and its management for planning to build Forward Operating Base (FOB) at Tarkwa Bay, this will make the Nigerian Navy to be in a position to secure the Lagos area against criminals,” he said.
The Managing Director of the NPA, Hadiza Bala Usman said the visit to the Naval Headquarters was part of the management of NPA’s interaction with stakeholders, stressing that it was aimed at strengthening the mode of operations and collaborations between the two agencies.
She said besides the issues of premises and properties that joined the NPA and the Nigerian Navy together, the NPA also planned to develop a Forward Operating Base (FOB) for the Navy , stating that provision have been made for the project in the 2017 budget.
The NPA boss disclosed that layers of collaboration have been spelt out regarding maritime safety and security and other issues that would improve business activities and other operations at the nation’s ports.