Anxiety heightened at the weekend as the duo of Nigerian Navy and their Merchant Navy counterpart; the Nigerian Merchant Navy Corps (NMNC) have re-enacted their age long hostilities sending jitters down the spines of maritime operators.
As the duo trade accusations over arms running and illegal oil bunkering fears heightened that their outburst may snowball into another round of unrests across the Niger Delta and within Lagos axis where the merchant navy group has its strongest hold and a training camp.
The first salvo was fired by the Navy when it alleged that the Nigerian Merchant Navy Corps is misleading the public into believing that its personnel belong to the Nigerian Navy and went ahead to alert the public on the illegality of the corp.
In response, the director-general of Nigerian Merchant Navy Corps, Commodore Allen Edema pointedly accused the Nigerian Navy of blackmail and rehearsing an age long rivalry.
According to him, the allegations that its members were plotting to destabilise Nigeria was a "baseless tissues of lies meant to mislead the public, incite public hatred and misgiving against the Nigeria Merchant navy who go about their legitimate business within the law".
Fighting Back, Edema whose members have also had running battles with members of the recognised and maritime industry-based Nigerian Merchant Navy and Water Transport Senior Staff Association accused the Navy of aiding and abetting illegal importation of illegal arms, contraband and hard drugs into the country.
"We make bold to clarify that what is happening now is not new, but a continuation of an ongoing war being waged by the Nigerian Navy against the Nigerian Merchant Navy since 2007, for seeking a role in maritime security in Nigeria and for seeking to contribute to curbing oil theft in the Niger Delta and stopping the importation of illegal arms, contrabands and hard drugs into Nigeria which the Nigerian Navy have so far not only woefully failed to achieve, but have also been complicit”.
But in a swift reaction, the national president of Nigerian Merchant Navy and Water Transport Senior Staff Association, Capt. Thomas Kemewerigha confirmed that the Edema group are partly responsible for most cases of pipeline vandalisation in the Niger Delta.
I don’t know why the federal government has continued to shield Edema, he is not a marine man, he should be jailed, he is a criminal, imagine him, saying that he has a bill in the Senate.
But continuing with his allegations against the Navy, Edema maintained that “the Nigerian Navy have been implicated in several criminal activities and acts of lawlessness incompatible with the current democratic dispensation in Nigeria. It is noticeable that for instance, the Nigerian Navy was involved in the disappearance of MT Ocean Challenger, popularly known as MT African Pride, Ocean Green and Ocean Blue three ships operating illegally in Nigeria and shipping crude through illegal under water pipelines and tapped from ashore."
“The NMNC is legally registered by the Federal Government of Nigeria to operate in the area of seafarers, maritime, petroleum security and safety in the maritime industry and to sanitise those who do not belong to the corps but paraded themselves as one”, he claimed.
But Capt Kemewerigha accused the group and its leader of illegal existence and called for the immediate arrest of the self styled Commodore.