• Captains Forced To Pay Monthly Ransom
Weeks after dropping their weapons and accepting the presidential amnesty, scores of the Niger Delta militants have resorted to fresh attacks on fishing trawlers, especially those along Akwa Ibom, Qua Ibo nautical axis and the border between Nigeria and Cameroun.
Shipping Position Weekly confirmed that while the militants have dropped a substantial percentage of their arms and ammunitions to government officials in most Niger Delta states, a large cache of sophisticated weapons have been moved away further to the creeks in Akwa Ibom and along the border with Cameroun.
Our source confirmed that at present the militants have created five camps from where they lay ambush for fishing trawlers. “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”, the source who is a seafarer told our correspondent.
The source who pleaded anonymity also confirmed that the unions especially, the Merchant Navy and Water Transport Senior Staff Association is aware of the upsurge and that officials of the union at the local levels have had to intervene on some occasions.
Confirming the information, president of the association, Captain Thomas Kemewerigha told Shipping Position Weekly that the union can not claim ignorance of the convergence of militants 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 hapless seafarers.
“I can not claim ignorance; our members have been threatened with everything by these boys. You know that on the high seas, you are almost at heir mercy since there is no security agency to assist us”, he explained.
The same story of rising militant attacks on fishing trawlers was confirmed by the vice chairman, Nigerian Trawler Owners Association (NITOA), Mrs Margaret Orakwusi who lamented that it is like most of the militants have only left public glare to intensify their attacks of fishing trawlers.
“The attacks have been intensified in spite of he so called amnesty that is going on, I am surprised that government did not envisage that”, she stated.
According to her, even though the government had recorded some success in the oil and gas sector, it should also know that it is not all of them that actually dropped their weapons.
“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 hem to drop their arms and giving them money, but in providing them with alternative means of livelihood”, she stressed.
Exhibiting fear of reprisal attack on account of granting media interview, Orakwusi declared: I don’t want to say more than this, our vesels are still out there and I don’t want to expose them to more attacks”.
She refused to disclosed the identity of any trawler which have been attacked in recent times and also refused to confirm how much the militants are demanding on each trawler per month, but lamented that members of her association are constantly subjected to intimidation, harassment and blackmail by the militants adding that the terrain under which fishing trawlers operate is most unfortunate.