NIGER DELTA: Militants threaten to blow up vessels
… As Bayelsa’s Idiot Family leads pirates onslaught
• FG sets to battle oil thieves, sea robbers
• IMO pledges support for African Piracy Code
Another sore point of the nascent militant group is alleged plans by the company to relocate its headquarters from Port-Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, to Lagos.
In a statement signed by Messrs Seiya Gbentua and Akpan Edidem, the CRF stated that Lamnalco’s alleged stampede of its staff to join Nigerian Seafarers Collaborating Unions (NSCU), following a recent National Industrial Court (NIC) verdict, in spite of the pending stay of execution notice till the Federal Appeal Court’s verdict on the issue, shows an alleged intention by the company to make their kindred in Lamnalco casual workers ahead of an alleged planned outright sack.
The militant group warned that Lamnalco Nigeria Limited and its affiliates, Delta Afrique and Smith Lamnalco, cannot force the loyal staff to join unsolicited union, in alleged subterranean moves to convert them to casual workers, despite the company’s over two decades of profitable operations in the region.
“We hereby place the Chairman and Directors of Lamnalco Nigeria Limited on notice to distance himself from the actions of the Managing Director, Mr. Ian David Hugo, by sacking him and halt the anti-Niger Delta policies he is being made by vested interests to pursue,” the CRF stated.
The group noted that the company’s Board of Directors should be prepared to share in the blame with the Managing Director “for the coming serial attacks on its vessels from Lagos to Calabar for which we will give no further notice.”
The CRF added: “We would see which is better between human policies and engagement of security forces for your/company protection when the battle line is finally drawn.”
Meanwhile, even as a sharp rise in criminal activities in the Niger Delta has led to fears of a return to pre-amnesty level of piracy and other criminal acts in Nigerian waters, the Minister of Transport, Senator Idris Umar, has once again reiterated the commitment of the President Goodluck Jonathan administration to tackling the challenges posed by crude oil theft and other crimes in Nigeria’s maritime domain.
Umar stated this in his office while receiving the report of the committee he set up to review the activities and operations of private jetty operators and stevedores.
The Minister stated that the Federal Government is aware of the enormous potentials and leakages inherent in maritime operations, especially around jetty operations and, therefore, set up the committee to look into ways of guaranteeing security and organised workforce at the private jetties to enhance efficiency.
He expressed his optimism that the recommendations of the committee will go a long way in addressing most of the security issues identified in the maritime domain.
Speaking earlier, the Chairman of the Stevedoring and Jetty Review Committee, who is also the Director of Maritime Services in the Federal Ministry of Transport, Alhaji Musa Nagogo, stated that, daunting as the job was, the members of the committee put in their best to ensure that the committee met with the terms of reference.
The committee, according to Nagogo, could not reach all the jetties identified due to security reasons, as well as funds constraints, but expressed optimism that, with the implementation of recommendations of the committee, most of the problems identified would be overcome.
Agency reports suggest that formation of new gangs, the re-emergence of old ones and a drying up of funds could all be to blame for the surge in activity during the past three months.
Bergen Risk Solutions counts 39 vessels and coastal craft attacked since early December 2012 in Nigerian waters, with a high level of violence leading to seven deaths.
The period has also seen 33 people taken hostage, and, potentially, the first use of a hijacked offshore vessel – The 499–gross tonnage Armada Tugas 1 (built 2003) – as a mothership.
“New groups and old alliances have (re)emerged in Bayelsa State, Delta State and on the shores of Calabar River on the Cameroonian border,” Bergen Risk said.
“Their leaders are largely new, having emerged from the ranks of the many disgruntled former militants gangs that now seek fulfilment of promises made under the terms of the Niger Delta amnesty plan.
“There is a serious and growing problem of former fighters feeling disenfranchised due to non-payment of the monthly stipends they were promised when they demobilised.
“Lack of meaningful job opportunities for these men is also a serious challenge.”
It says there is also a fear among erstwhile rebels money available to support the amnesty is “beginning to run out or is being turned off”.
Bergen Risk said that the most sophisticated gangs are operating from Bayelsa State – with the newly formed outfit, The Idiot Family, the main mover.
Established on December 1, 2012, the Idiot Family, according to Bergen Risk, has already demonstrated “levels of violence far exceeding what had become the new established norm in Nigerian waters since the Niger Delta amnesty ended in October 2009.”
The group is believed to have been behind the Armada Tugas 1 hijack.
The report said that political factors could also be playing a part in the spike in attacks, the report says.
“The groups operating in Bayelsa are believed to be actively pursuing political patronage ahead of the 2015 elections,” Bergen Risk explained.
“At least some of the recent kidnappings, it is alleged, are carried out to finance election campaigns.”
Meanwhile, the crew from a tanker released by Somali pirates earlier this month have struck a deal on wages owed to them.
The 17 Indians, two Nigerians, two Bangladeshis and a Pakistani tasted freedom on March 11, 2013, after a year in captivity on the 6,800-dead weight chemical tanker Royal Grace (built 1984).
And they reached an agreement last Sunday to accept three months’ back pay, after initially holding out for six months.
Two of the men, said to be in a critical condition, flew to India on the same day from Oman.
Royal Grace was sailing towards Nigeria when it was hijacked by Somali pirates on March 2, 2012.
A Nigerian seafarer died soon afterwards due to poor health.
The ship was spotted by the European Union Naval Force (EU NAVFOR) penultimate week and escorted to the port of Salalah, Oman.
The government of Kerala in India flew down the Chief Minister’s Secretary, N Shivadas, to monitor the situation.
Speaking to Emirates 24/7, Shivadas said: “Finally the ordeal is over. We have been waiting for their release for several months now.”
He added that the pending wages will be paid later.
According to Shivadas, the ship’s owner, Tony Apalli, a Nigerian national, moved back to his country following the hijacking and was helping the cause.
The Equasis website of the global maritime regulatory agency of the United Nations (UN), the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) lists the owner of the Royal Grace as Snow Whyte Energy.
In a related development, Meanwhile, the IMO has pledged its support to assist in the implementation of a new Code of Conduct concerning the prevention and repression of piracy, armed robbery against ships and illicit maritime activity in West and Central Africa, which was recently adopted at a Ministerial meeting in Cotonou, Benin.
The Code is expected to be opened for signature at the meeting of the Heads of State and Government of Central and West African States, expected to be held in Yaoundé, Cameroon, in May 2013.
Welcoming the adoption of the Code, IMO Secretary-General, Mr. Koji Sekimizu, said that the IMO was ready to support the countries in the region in its implementation.
“IMO has been working for a number of years with international development partners on a number of activities aimed at enhancing the ability of individual States in the region, and the wider sub-region, to build a sustainable maritime capacity and we look forward to continuing to work with them to support the implementation of this Code and to work together to repress piracy, armed robbery against ships and other illicit maritime activity off the coasts of west and central Africa,” Sekimizu said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the countries to assist in the implementation of this new Code.”
The IMO has assisted ECOWAS in the drafting of the Code, which incorporates many elements of the IMO-developed Djibouti Code of Conduct, signed by 20 States in the western Indian Ocean and Gulf of Aden area, as well as provisions from the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to establish a sub-regional integrated coast guard function network in West and Central Africa, developed in 2008 by IMO and the Maritime Organization of West and Central Africa (MOWCA).
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