FIFTY thousand personnel drawn from the Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force have indicated interest to join the efforts by the Federal Government in achieving enhanced maritime security in the country.
The group says it is ready to assist to check importation of illegal and sophisticated weapons through sea by kidnappers and militants and offer protection to the local maritime assets.
Speaking in Abuja, leader of the group, Commodore Ichukwu Agaba, said a letter for recognition was dispatched to the Senate and the Federal Ministry of Justice in 2015, seeking legal framework and empowerment for them to offer roles in protection of the waterways.
He noted that the group had come up with strategies and was ready to put in tremendous action towards total tackling of illegal oil bunkering activities in the coastal region.
According to him, some personnel had already been deployed in some coastal states to confront the security challenges there, but were still waiting for official approval of the government.
Agaba noted that establishment of the security and safety group was a follow-up to the introduction of the international ship and port facility security code by the International Maritime Organization in 2001.
He said that IMO mandated, after the 2001 terror attack in the United States of America, that all countries that had access to both ocean and sea must establish their Merchant Navy Security and Safety Corps to provide security to international ship and port for safety of the maritime industry.
The leader of the group disclosed that some African countries which include Mali, Chad and Cameroon had already established their own corps.
He said, “the roles of Nigerian Merchant Navy Security and Safety Corps in this country cannot be overemphasised
“Our officers and men are seasoned professionals who are trained to combat any crime at the maritime environment. We would work to prevent illegal entry of any foreign marine ship and perform salvage duties at sea in accordance with the rules of international convention.”
“According us official recognition would drastically reduce the rate of unemployment and poverty, and ensure economic and social stability in the country. It will also lead to reduction in armed robbery, kidnapping, militancy, piracy and other criminal activities
“We will provide complementary capability to close the security gap at the seaports. We will support naval coastal warfare defence in accordance with long-standing agreement
“The corps as security outfit is willing and ready to cooperate with all recognized security formations to provide maritime security to encourage foreign investment in maritime, oil and gas sector.”