Acting President Yemi Osinbajo has said the plethora of criminal activities in the Niger Delta threatens existence in the region. Also, the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok Ete Ibas, has said the snail-paced criminal justice system in the country, among other issues, has ensured continuance of crimes in the maritime domain.
Osinbajo, who spoke yesterday in Abuja at the public presentation of the ‘Harmonised standard operating procedures on arrest, detention and prosecution of vessels and persons in Nigeria’s maritime environment 2016’, said that besides threatening national security, other crimes, which manifest in the form of sabotage, vandalism of national maritime infrastructure, crude oil theft, kidnapping, illegal bunkering and unregulated fishing and environmental degradation have to be treated as existential threats.
“People and resources of the Niger Delta region, including the adjoining waters of the Gulf of Guinea, have unfortunately suffered these unfortunately larger consequences of these maritime crimes and environmental degradation,” he said.
Osinbajo noted that as a consequence, the area now hosts the most notorious of maritime criminal gangs, “fuelling terrorism” and other notable trans-border crimes.
He said the initiatives carried out by the Navy to strengthen security operations in the region were commendable, just as the most enduring step was the harmonisation of the operating procedure to combat maritime irregularities.
Ibas in his opening address said the Nigerian Navy (NN) in operational partnership with other Maritime Law Enforcement Agencies (MLEAs) has arrested several vessels and people in the past, but the criminal justice system in Nigeria has not helped matters and inter-agency rivalry was also an obstacle.
He added: “It might interest you to know that some of the arrested vessels have been in the custody of the NN for over 10 years with attendant drain on the NN logistic and financial resources for their maintenance. The delay in the prosecution is in most cases linked to inadequate synergy among agencies, which creates loopholes for the perpetrators to evade justice and sometimes drag the MLEAs into litigations that could otherwise have been avoided.
In the final analysis, this situation unwittingly facilitates some of these criminal elements to walk freely back into the streets without facing justice. Some of them even return to the maritime environment to commit further crimes to the detriment of the nation. As such, illegal activities have continued to thrive in the area thus threatening the country’s economic well-being as well as safety of lives and assets in the nation’s maritime domain.”