Attempts by 10 suspected pirates to hijack a foreign vessel, MT IMAS was at the weekend foiled by the Nigerian Navy (NN) on Lagos waterways.
The operation, which was carried out by personnel of the Western Naval Command (WNC) who were on pre-election patrol, led to the arrest of one of the suspects identified as Shola Sama.
It was learnt that the other nine who had successfully boarded the distressed vessel opened fire upon sighting the naval officials but later bowed to their superior force.
Sama, 31 and father of three, however denied being a pirate, claiming he was a businessman going about his lawful duty, adding that he was nabbed while trying to rescue his younger brother who fell into the water after his boat capsided.
He claimed that he sells food and other things such as recharge cards to ships with his passenger ship, in exchange of petrol.
He said that he usually bought the items for about N2000 and would sell for as much as N4500 and went as much as thrice a day.
He said: “I went to sea to collect my product with a 50kg jerrican. I was with my younger brother, Gbenga and I had N400 thousand with me. That is how we usually drive around and I am not the only one in the business.
“After filling the keg, the wave came and there was a vessel that was pumping sand when it passed, the wave hit my boat and it capsided with my younger brother so I was trying to rescue him, it pushed me away.
“I was swimming and shouting to ship that was coming. A man said they should throw rope for me. They threw rope and I was begging them to allow me come into their ship that I used to buy market from them.
“He said they were coming. They called a white man and they said I should wait. The next minute, they brought a lifebouy and I went to the boat. They asked what I was doing I explained. The next place I found myself was Navy base.”
But explaining how the suspect was caught, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), WNC, Rear Admiral Jonathan Ango said the distressed vessel radioed the NN that she was under attack by pirates.
He explained that NN boat was deployed and after exchange of gun fire with the pirates who had two boats, some of them sustained injuries and were dislodged, while Sama was nabbed.
Ango said: “As part of our preparations and actions for the just conducted election, we deployed our ships to cover the inland waterways and also to protect the ships and patrol the territorial water.
Fortunately for us, one of the ships, MT IMAS, raised the alarm around 01:20 that she was under attack by pirates and one of our patrol boats that was close by went immediately to her rescue and in the process, saw two boats loaded with pirates and there was an exchange of fire.
“We managed to dislodge the pirates from the attack. We injured a few of them and we also captured one of them whom we brought here for proper investigation .
“Their intention was to board the vessel and either kidnap the foreigners on board or steal the product. Or take the ship as ransom and go and sell the product somewhere. But the alarm raised through the distress channel which we all have, foiled their attempt.
“This is part of the measures we are taking to assure Lagosians especially and Nigerians in general that the NN is very much ready for the security of the water ways
“And if there are miscreants or hoodlums who think they can use the waterways to cause any harm or damage, we want to let them know the NN is very much ready and up to the task to prevent them from doing that.”
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