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Barely one week after the management of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA) issued a press release calming that a report by International Maritime Bureau (IMB), showed that first quarter of 2019 presented an increased level of safety in the Nigerian Maritime Domain, reports from the Spanish Navy has countered the claims.
The IMB Piracy Reporting Centre, had said no vessel was reported hijacked in the period under review, marking the first time Nigeria had such record since the first quarter of 1994. The report noted that in the first quarter of 2019, Nigeria experienced a decrease in reported piracy incidents, compared to the same period in 2018.
However, the crew of a Spanish Navy patrol vessel, the Serviola, deployed to the Gulf of Guinea on a train-and-assist mission to defend Spanish interests overseas successfully rescued the crew of a Nigerian merchant vessel, from a gang of pirates on April 9 after the vessel had been seized towards the end of March, thus, voiding the report that first quarter was pirate-free.
With the revelation by the Spanish Navy, it means that either efforts of NIMASA are not working or efforts are not being made at all on the security of the nation’s territorial waters.
Presently, the Nigerian water, is considered as the world’s most dangerous waters for maritime piracy, prompting the international shipping community to appeal for help from Western powers in a bid to provide security assistance off Nigeria.
Besides, investigations show that every ocean liner or vessel calling Nigerian ports pays through her nose to private anti-piracy security organizations in dollars for in and out escorts to Nigerian habours.
Additional details released by the Serviola’s Ship master, Capitán de Corbeta Román González-Cela Echevarría said his crew first observed the Nigerian vessel behaving in an unusual manner for a merchant ship, and shortly after, spotted a small boat in its vicinity, thereby raising suspicion.
Subsequently, the Nigerian vessel did not respond to radio calls, forcing the Serviola’s commanding officer to launch two small RIBs to investigate.
However, as the Serviola’s launches approached, the small boat fled the scene at high speed.
“As we approached, we found that there was no response and that the boat moved away,” said Capitán de Corbeta Román González-Cela Echevarría, speaking according to Maritime Executive, to Spanish radio service COPE.
The crew of the Nigerian merchant ship on the arrival of the Serviola’s boarding party disclosed that the vessel had been hijacked four days earlier, and that the Serviola’s rapid approach and continuous radio calls scared off the pirates.
According to the captain, the group of pirates consisted of nine attackers armed with AK-47 rifles and grenade launchers. The pirates had pointed their guns at the master and ordered him not to answer the Serviola’s VHF calls.
Tweets during the attack showed that the pirates stole all of the money and valuables of the 12 members of the Nigerian ship’s crew. The attackers also took a significant portion of the ship’s provisions.
Consequently, the Spanish navy ship, Serviola remained on scene for a whole day to provide food and drink to the vessel’s crew. The merchant vessel then made her way to the port of Lagos, while the Serviola resumed her patrol.
Ironically, Capt. Echevarría noticed a remarkable difference between the pattern of piracy off Nigeria and the one from those used by Somali pirates in years past, especially in terms of modus operandi.
“They make quick attacks, with the intention of taking everything there is – something that is very different with respect to Somalia, where the boats [were] taken to the waterfront where they then ask for”, he said.
Though there was nothing to show that either NIMASA or the Nigerian Navy or the controversial Israeli security group, HSLi was on ground during the hijack as efforts to reach any of the trio failed for comments.
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