“The acclaimed warships are decommissioned boats. No weapons came with those boats, they were just bought ordinarily. It is the Navy that mounted their guns on those boats,” Director General of the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Patrick Akpobolokemi, said yesterday while reacting to media reports accusing a company owned by ex-Niger Delta militant, Government Ekpemupolo aka Tompolo of importing six decommissioned Norwegian warships into Nigeria.
While speaking at a press conference in Lagos yesterday, Akpobolokemi further stated that “It is the Navy that is in charge of those boats. What will you ever do in this country that you will have your peace? I don’t understand.”
Akpobolokemi said the “unfounded rumours” were the handiwork of “people who are bent on blackmailing the agency because of its war against illegalities on the nation’s territorial waters”.
Akpobolokemi also said that President Goodluck Jonathan commissioned three of the boats during the groundbreaking ceremony of the Nigerian Maritime University in Okerenkoko, Delta State in May.
“Also, we have taken people round all those things. Senators have come to see it, some even said militants are the ones driving the boats even today if you want we can go back there. So, what is the complain? I know they are complaining because we are doing our job. We are not allowing illegalities. They will not come and tell you this truth but we equally know,” he said.
Akpobolokemi said there was no law stopping private companies from doing business with the agency advising critics of the agency to be objective.
“Our laws permit that the agency can partner with anyone. In the section of our Act, it says NIMASA in furtherance of its function can partner with any person or group of person and any corporate organization. So people should not just stay somewhere to spread rumours. Also, rumours should give way for objectivity, facts that are verifiable and this should be benchmark against national laws and standard and possibly international conventions.
“When we have private people who are only supplying boats for us and that is the sin that is being committed, I don’t think NIMASA owe anyone hiding under the verge of its vessels being seized for oil theft or organized piracy apology,” he said.
It would be recalled that a Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet reported recently that Global West Vessel Specialists Nigeria Limited (GWVSNL), a company owned by Akpobolokemi’s kinsman, benefactor and ex-militant leader, Tompolo purchased six decommissioned ships which were also upgraded with new weaponry.
GWVSNL in 2011 signed a 10-year contract for the maintenance of security on the nation’s waterways.
On the fight to stem the spate of pirate attacks on the nation’s waters, the NIMASA DG said: “I challenge anyone of you here who can mention one hijack of a ship that has occurred in the last one year between the Lagos waters and Republic of Benin. Remember Nigeria controls about 60 per cent of maritime traffic in West Africa, do you think it is by coincidence or that the criminals just repented and this was not planned?”
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