The Nigerian Navy on Thursday inaugurated Operation Water Guard in Badagry, Lagos, to checkmate smuggling of petroleum products and other contraband in the area.
Speaking during the ceremony, Rear Admiral Mustapha Hassan, the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command Operation, said the operation would check activities of economic saboteurs.
According to him, Badagry is a place of great historical significance in our nation, but has, unfortunately, gained notoriety for being a hotspot of smuggling activities.
“The smuggling of refined petroleum products, narcotics, and foreign-parboiled rice across Nigeria-Benin is not only a challenge, it has constituted economic sabotage and threatened the security and prosperity of the nation.
“It is the solemn duty of the Nigeria Navy to address this issue head-on.
“Operation Water Guard is an intiative that embodies our commitment to put an end to these unlawful activities.
“We are resolute in our mission to make the Nigerian waters and borders unattainable for maritime criminals and smugglers alike.
“The smuggling of illicit goods across our borders not only hampers our national economic progress, but also undermines the rule of law and security,” he said.
Hassan said that the operation was a resounding response to this threat.
He promised that the Navy would protect the nation’s maritime interests and ensure the waters are secure, peaceful and free from illicit activities.
“The Nigerian Navy, in collaboration with other relevant agencies, will use all necessary means to detect, deter and apprehend those involved in smuggling and other maritime crimes.
“This operation represents our unwavering commitment to safeguarding our waters and upholding the rule of law.
“I want to emphasise that Operation Water Guard is not just about enforcement; it is about securing our national interests and preserving the prosperity of our nation,” he said.
Hassan added that the Navy’s actions would be guided by professionalism, discipline and respect for human rights.
He stressed that the Navy would work in close cooperation with the communities and stakeholders in Badagry and beyond.
“I call upon all Nigerians to support us in this endeavour. We must stand united against those who seek to harm our nation’s interests.
“The success of Operation Water Guard depends on our collective efforts and determination to eliminate these threats,” he said.
Also speaking, the Commander, NNS BEECROFT, Cdr Kolawole Oguntuga, said they had noticed series of people operating around the area as economic saboteurs.
“The Forward Operating Base (FOB) of the Nigerian Navy in Badagry has carried out several intelligence-led search operations which resulted in detection of hundreds of jerry-cans filled with petroleum products in Ashipa community in Badagry.
“These products are being carried out of Nigeria while contraband such as drugs, cannabis sativa, foreign rice are being brought into the country.
“Nigerian Navy under the leadership of Chief of Naval Staff, Vice-Admiral E.I. Ogalla is in support of the Federal Government’s policy to make sure that petroleum products in Nigeria are meant for Nigerians.
“That is why in order to support the operations of the FOB Badagry, this particular operation was activated to secure the coastal community.
“The operation will be sustained to ensure Nigerians have a wonderful yuletide season and beyond, and also improve the economic prosperity of our nation,” Oguntuga said.
He said the operation was being sustained with many boats that would patrol the waterways and ships at sea, as well as using helicopters and drones.
In his remarks, Navy Capt. Adams- Aliu, the Commanding Officer, FOB, Badagry, said the command had seized over N81m worth of illegal goods between March 2023 till date.
According to him, these include refined petroleum products being taken out of the country, foreign rice, drugs and cannabis sativa.
“Some of these arrests were made at Sea, others are during the cordon and search operations within the community,” he said.