By Godwin Oritse
LAGOS — THE Federal Government has said that it will not hesitate to detain any vessel entering the country territorial and coastal waters with security escorts on board, whether armed or unarmed.
The Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency, NIMASA, gave this warning when the agency detained three vessels, LILAC VICTORIA, UACC EAGLE and MORGANE, because they sailed into Nigeria with individuals linked to private security firms overseas offering training on the use of weapons.
The NIMASA Director of Shipping Development, Captain Warredi Enisuoh, said the agency was uncomfortable that vessels with high probability of entering Nigeria with disposable arms or ammunition were beginning to sail in shortly after the agency and other sisterly agencies had cleansed the Nigerian waters of scourges such as piracy.
Describing it as “a new threat” that now “looms over the horizon with possible far-reaching consequences,” Enisuoh warned ship operators, cargo owners, ship agents, among others that resultant interventions and delays may lead to possible forfeiture of their ships and cargo to the Federal Government.
“Private registered security firms in collusion with unscrupulous officials have embarked on unconstitutional MoUs and partnerships that threaten our national security.
“NIMASA has embarked on tackling this problem as it seems to be gaining tacit support underground as local Nigerian lawyers now intervene when they are arrested.”
“There is no doubt that they come with arms hidden within the ship or throw them overboard when threatened with a search.
“The weapons they come with could be sold. This could well threaten the peace and calm we enjoy in our waters.
“The agency is, therefore, sounding a note of warning that any vessel that comes into Nigeria with a foreign guard, whether armed or unarmed will be detained.”