The Nigerian Navy has paraded seven fake naval personnel alleged to have been terrorising and swindling commercial boat operators in Rivers State.
Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS) Pathfinder, Commodore Sam Bura, paraded the suspects and the weapons found with them before newsmen on Monday in Port Harcourt.
Bura said the men used fake naval uniforms, identification cards and paraded themselves as personnel of the Merchant Navy with the intent to defraud unsuspecting members of the public.
According to him, the arrest followed incessant terror reports by the commercial boat operators at Abuloma Jetty area of Port Harcourt.
“On July 19, naval troops raided criminal hideouts along Abuloma Jetty and arrested seven suspects who belonged to an illegal outfit known as Merchant Navy Seafarers Association of Nigeria.
“Weapons seized from the suspects are machetes, assorted knives, electric shock baton and a vehicle that is boldly written: `Merchant Navy’.
“The suspects while undergoing interrogation claimed that they were at Abuloma jetty to enforce safety regulations to commercial boat operators.
“One wonders how an individual or organisation could use machetes, knives and electric shock baton to enforce safety regulations if not to intimidate and extort members of the public,’’ he said.
Bura, represented by Cdr. Mamman Alushi of the NNS Pathfinder Base Intelligent Office, alleged that the group extorted huge sums of money from residents and companies who mistook them for naval personnel.
Bura said that the Merchant Navy and other related organisations were proscribed by a Federal Government Gazette in 2013 over breach to national security and impersonation of the navy.
He said that in 2016 when the Navy raided one of the group’s camps in Isaka, in Okirika Local Government of Rivers, the organisation had over 1,000 recruits.
“Investigation revealed that the organisation, which charged minimum of N250,000 for entry, trained the recruits in weapons handling.
“You will agree with me that this has become an army ready to be exploited by anybody,’’ he said.
Bura said the suspects and weapons would be handed-over to the police for further investigation and possible arraignment.
The commander advised youths against joining the organisation and warned sponsors of the organisation to desist from carrying out their illegal activities.