• Says there is post-amnesty sea robbery in Akwa Ibom
Governor Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom state has charged the Nigeria Navy to stem the rising tide of sea robberies within the state’s nautical boundary saying that the relevant armed forces must rise to the emerging challenges of post-amnesty militancy.
Shipping Position Weekly had reported exclusively in its last week’s edition that militants-turned sea robbers have laid siege on Akwa Ibom and the Nigerian boundary with Cameroun attacking fishing trawlers, captains and crew on board.
We had also reported that owners and captains of fishing trawlers are being forced to pay ransom raging from N10million to N20million every month to ensure their safety.
But charging the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Eastern Command, Rear Admiral I. B. Acholonu who paid him a courtesy visit, the governor confirmed that the state still faces attacks on waterways. “We still have difficulties because of pirates and armed robbers. You need to cleanse your system and water”, he pleaded with the Navy boss.
According to him, those who are now threatening aquatic activities in the state can no longer be treated as militants but as armed robbers. The Navy will no longer be fighting militants who have surrendered their weapons to the Federal Government but with the pirates and robbers.
“Any straggler in the sea could not be called militant but a criminal because militants have surrendered their weapons.
A source had confirmed payment of security fess by trawler owners in that story saying that: “Payment of ransom is not new here, our Captains go to meet them to negotiate with these people and we are forced to pay between N10 million and N20milllion monthly as security fee before fishing activities can go on”.
President of Nigerian Merchant Navy and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Captain Thomas Kemewerigha had also confirmed the development to Shipping Position Weekly, saying that militants have created camps along the nautical miles leading to Qua Iboe, Akwa Ibom and Nigeria’s border with Cameroun, but added that there was nothing the union could do in the face of the upsurge except to appeal to the government and let them understand that the militants have only left Rivers, Bayelsa and Delta state to terrorise helpless seafarers.
Shipping Position Weekly had also reported the fear that was expressed by the vice chairman, Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), Mrs Margaret Orakwusi who confirmed that “the attacks have been intensified in spite of the so called amnesty that is going on”.
According to her, “some of them (the militants) have discovered that it is a good avenue for them to make quick money, they are not relenting at all, the attacks have continued and I am surprised that there is no reduction in spite of the amnesty that the government has extended to them. The solution is not asking them to drop their arms and giving them money, but in providing them with alternative means of livelihood”, she had stressed.
She had also refused to divulge the identities of the vessels that had been attacked in recent times, saying: “I don’t want to say more than this, our vessels are still out there and I don’t want to expose them to more attacks”.
Earlier Navy chief had told the Governor that he was in the state as part of his tour around all the formations in the coastal areas.