As the elections draw closer, the Nigerian Navy has expressed its commitment to ensuring adequate security of lives and properties of Nigerians travelling by sea, to exercise their franchise.
The Navy gave the assurance, just as the Eastern Naval Command embarked on a show of force along the Calabar water ways, in preparation to support the Independent National Electoral Commission in handling and distribution of electoral materials.
Speaking to reporters after the seven kilometre exercise on the high sea, the representative of the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Rear Admiral Atiku Abubakar, said, the essence of the trip before the elections was to allow personnel practice the act of providing security in the nation’s waters.
In line with the Nigerian Navy’s role of aid to civil authority, the routine activity to always prepare personnel for unforeseen dangers on the waterways took-off from the NNS Victory Jetty and terminated at the Parrot Island.
According to the Rear Admiral, the patrol of the maritime environment would also send a signal of warning to sea pirates to desist from their activities or face the wrath of the law.
The FOC told reporters that the Nigerian Navy was working in collaboration with the Cross River State government and other security agencies, to ensure safety of lives and property.
The Cross River State Government said the exercise was exciting and reassured the public of a hitch free electoral exercise.
Pirates attacked an oil industry supply vessel in Nigerian waters this week and kidnapped three crew members, security sources said on Thursday. The captain, chief engineer and second engineer were abducted on Monday when gunmen boarded the Malaysia-flagged Armada Tuah 22 around 50 nautical miles (90 km) off the coast of the Brass region in Bayelsa State, three security sources said.
One of the sailors kidnapped was Indonesian, the sources said. The vessel is a tugboat contracted to supply an offshore oil platform. Nigeria’s navy spokesman gave no comment.
A fishing vessel, Orange 7, was attacked on March 2 in a similar position and one of the crew was killed, sources said.
There has been a surge in piracy attacks off the coast of Nigeria this year with gangs showing signs of moving further afield and using more violent tactics.
Oil majors Exxon Mobil and Shell said last month that security was a major factor in making Nigeria one of the most expensive oil-producing countries to operate in.
Oil and shipping companies have to hire crisis management teams, pay higher insurance premiums and face the prospect of ransom payments, as well as brace themselves for damage to their reputations.
The prime suspects for most attacks are Nigerian oil gangs, who already carry out industrial-scale theft of crude oil, known as ‘bunkering’, in the restive onshore Niger Delta swamplands.