BY EVELYN USMAN
Barely 48 hours after a ship, MT NORTE hijacked by 20 suspected pirates was rescued with the crew members alive, another ship, was again rescued yesterday, by Naval operatives attached to NNS Beecroft, Apapa, around 10 nautical miles off the coast of Escravos, Delta State.
Arrested at the end of the ensuing gun battle between naval operatives and the pirates, were four suspected pirates while nine crew members were rescued.
The Ship, MT CROW, loaded with 200 metric tonnes of AGO, was reportedly hijacked at Aiyetoro area of Ondo State on August 14.
Parading the suspects before newsmen at the Defence Jetty, Lagos, the Commander, NNS BEECROFT, Commodore Chris Ezekobe, explained that following information received from the Regional Awareness Centre that a ship had been hijacked by unknown gunmen, naval fast track ships were deplored on rescue mission.
According to him, “the team ran into the hijacked ship around Aiyetoro area of Ondo State. By the time it was sited, it had a speed boat tied behind the vessel. All attempt made at getting the sea robbers to stop, failed. It was at this juncture that the naval operatives that were circling the vessel opened fire.
The robbers then asked the captain of the ship to respond to the call signs made by the men of the Nigerian Navy after dumping their rifles into the sea” he said.
Commodore Ezekobe boasted that the Navy was capable of nipping activities of sea robbers in the bud, disclosing that with the additional platforms at the Navy’s disposal , threat by seas robbers and pirates within the nation’s territorial waters would soon be a thing of the past.
“If the acquisition of more vessels are maintained, our waters would be safer. The International Maritime Bureau (IMB) has listed our country as the second next to Somalia and we are working assiduously to change that perception”, he stated.
He was however quick to clarify that ” our challenge in the Nigeria is sea robbery as opposed to piracy which is obtained in Somalia. We have over 6000 creeks between Lagos to Calabar and it is easier for the sea robbers to attack and slip back to the creeks.”
Alleged leader of the gang, Adekunle Adeboye, who claimed the operation was his first, said it was masterminded by a man he simply gave his name as general
“General sent us from Igbokoda to go and hijack oil vessels. This is my very first operation. I was recruited this month. The ‘General’ promised us money if we succeeded in hijacking and emptying an oil vessel. We trailed the barge and then used our weapons to overpower them. We did not shoot anyone rather , we threatened them with the weapons we had on us.”