Indicative of a renewed resolve to squelch the nefarious activities of the brigands in the nation’s maritime domain, the Nigerian Navy in the early hours of Tuesday killed seven sea pirates in a shootout involving officers of the Nigerian Navy NNS Victory Command at the Oron Pilate Island in Calabar.
In recent times, sea piracy and bunkering has posed a major challenge to security agencies in the country.
According to an eye witness, the battle between the two groups which left only one of the sea pirates alive and was later arrested, was a fierce one while it lasted, before the pirates were overpowered by the superior firepower of the Navy.
The Navy team had been on patrol escorting a Cameroonian vessel the Brenda Corlett, when they were accosted by a couple of speed boats around Parrot Island, and from which sustained gunfire aimed at their direction emanated.
The Boat Officer, Lt. Linus Osuman; and Master of the vessel, Capt. Richard Nkollei, who were on board during the gun battle, said luck ran out on the pirates, when one of the boats developed an engine failure which led to the arrest of a suspect, Bassey Bassey, who claimed to be an ex-Niger Delta militant.
The suspect reportedly also claimed to be a fisherman by profession and hails from Akpabuyo Local Government Area of Cross River State. Commander of the NNS Victory, Commodore James Oluwole, said tat the waterways require daily surveillances to keep pirates and oil thieves in check.
He said that the Nigerian Navy will stop at nothing to achieve this.
The suspect, according to Oluwole, will be handed over to the appropriate agency for prosecution.
The latest incident comes in the wake of 12 pirates recently killed by Nigerian Navy personnel in a gun battle as they tried to flee from a fuel tanker they hijacked off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea last week, the Navy has revealed.
In that particular incident, pirates took control of the St. Kitts and Nevis-flagged MT Notre, but an emergency signal was sent to the Navy and several gunships were deployed to recover the vessel, Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Sidi-Ali Hassan told reporters.
According to the Navy chief, its gunships caught up with the vessel and forced her into Nigerian waters, but, while negotiating the ship’s release, the pirates tried to escape on a speed boat.
He said that, as the Navy boats pursued, they were fired upon by the hijackers. “The gun battle lasted for about 30 minutes after which they were overpowered. On taking over the speed boat, four of the militants were alive and unhurt, while the rest of the pirates were killed in the crossfire,” Sidi-Ali Hussan said.
The crew was all rescued unharmed from the MT Notre, which was carrying 17,000 metric tonnes of gasoline, according to him.
Pirate attacks off West Africa’s mineral-rich coastline have almost doubled from last year and threaten to jeopardize the shipping of commodities from the region.
They have already jacked up insurance costs.
It is rare for the Navy to engage pirates in gun battles offshore, as vessels are usually released after being robbed of cargo and valuables.
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