Six days after eight Nigerians, including five members of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria (MWUN), were kidnapped by sea pirates off the waters of Rivers State, Niger Delta region, Director-General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, has condemned the abduction “in very strong terms.”
They were kidnapped in a passenger boat along the Kula-Abonema River while travelling to Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital on Monday.
The pirates have contacted the maritime workers union for ransom demanding an amount the leaders lamented is “too much for the union to pay.”
The union, therefore, warned that if nothing is done by the Rivers State government and nation’s security agencies ‘anytime soon’ to release their members, they will be forced to shut down the two seaports in the State, the Port Harcourt and Onne ports.
In a statement by Osagie Edward, Assistant Director, Public Relations of
NIMASA, Dr Jamoh expressed “sadness over the incident,” regretting that this is happening when the Nigerian maritime industry is witnessing tremendous gains in the nation’s maritime security sphere and are getting commended for the progress both locally and internationally.
According to Dr Jamoh, “I have spoken with the President-General of the Maritime Workers Union of Nigeria, Comrade Adewale Adeyanju to express the Agency’s displeasure over the incident and unequivocal condemnation of this unpalatable development, especially when the industry is beginning to witness tremendous gains in our maritime security sphere and are getting commended for the progress both locally and internationally. I also assured him of the Agency’s support during this challenging period till the abducted maritime workers are returned safely to their families and the industry.
“The MWUN President, who said his team is moving to the vicinity of the incident by this weekend, welcomed our show of solidarity and support as part of the maritime family. Apart from condemning this situation, NIMASA is also following the trend of the events, and our Deep Blue assets, especially the C4i and intelligence centres are monitoring and we shall keep the public apprised of progress,” the Director-General said.
He also said that the Agency is not unmindful of sea pirates’ presence and activities of other marine criminals who are running away from the intense heat in the nation’s territorial waters, courtesy of the enforcement of the Deep Blue Project.
He noted that such lawless persons would have started relocating to the low rivers to continue their criminal enterprise.
Dr. Jamoh vowed that the personnel of the Deep Blue Project would ensure that all waters of the coastal states are covered in their daily patrol to nip in the bud any act of criminality in the waterways and creeks.
He also assured that the Special Maritime Intelligence Unit of Deep Blue Project will up its ante in engaging the youths at the creeks through the use of the carrot and stick policy of the Agency to wean them away from marine-related atrocities and crimes.
Dr. Jamoh further said that the Agency will continue to explore its partnerships with the Governors of the littoral States to continue to sensitize the youths on the non-profitability of marine crime as well as ensuring that they are meaningfully engaged to contribute their quota to the development of the nation.
Vice President General of the maritime union, MWUN, Comrade Francis Bunu, said “they (abductors) have contacted us, but we cannot disclose the amount and we have told them that we don’t have such money. We have been paying countless times but enough is enough. We are tired. We know how much we have lost to pirates. We are just mere port workers, so why are we seen as the cash cow for kidnappers?
“We have told the government of River State and all security agencies that if nothing is done to release our members that were kidnapped on Monday, we are going to withdraw all our services from River State,” he said.
Bunu decried the spate of insecurity on the Port Harcourt waterways where activities of sea pirates had led to incessant abduction of waterways commuters, killing and raping of women.
He noted that the Rivers State government is not doing enough in securing the waterways. Bunu added that members of the union have always been at the receiving end with huge sums paid as ransom to sea pirates.
He added that insecurity has been a major challenge on why the ports in Rivers State have remained underutilized, charging security agencies to step up their surveillance on the waterways to curb the menace of pirates.
“The issue of kidnapping has been happening too often and our members are often the target. Enough is enough. We know how much our members are suffering because the two ports in River State are not working as a result of insecurity in the waterways. A female member who is among those kidnapped had 13 boats but now she is left with just two because of the activities of these pirates.
“To do business in Rivers State is 10 times costlier than doing business in Lagos. What are our security agencies doing? What is the job of the Navy and Marine police? Everybody must do their job, if not, we are going to withdraw our services,” he warned.