Against the backdrop of intensified naval patrol of coastal borders and waterways of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States to check the activities of oil bunkering and sea pirates, the Akwa Ibom State House of Assembly has called on the authorities of the Nigerian Navy to caution its men operating in the coastal areas of the state to exercise care not to harass and seize the wares belonging to the people of the state doing legitimate business in Okobo, Oron, Mbo, Ibeno, Uruan, Eastern Obolo, Mkpat Enin and Ikot Abasi coastal areas.
This call was contained in the House resolution made, following the motion highlighting the menace posed by sea pirates to the coastal areas of the state, moved by the Chairman House Committee on Security and member representing Okobo State Constituency, Hon. Efefiong Antigha, calling on the Navy to step up patrol in the Akwa Ibom and Cross River waterways which have been threatened by sea pirates.
The House while calling on the agencies of the government to provide relief materials to the internally displaced fishermen who were victims of the recent invasion by sea pirates, decried the culpability of the naval operatives who have it as a responsibility to protect the citizens in their legitimate businesses, but instead, violate their rights in Atabong, as corroborated by reports of traditional rulers in the coastal areas on human rights abuses.
The lawmaker pointed out the mayhem unleashed on traders at Atabong market and the fish market at Oron over claims that one of the naval men was missing, lamenting that this has adversely affected the economic life of the people whose livelihood depends largely on water.
Another lawmaker representing Uruan State Constituency, Hon. Kufre Etuk, called for sustainable solution by the government to check further invasion of the coastal areas by sea pirates which he said has been a recurring issue. He noting that, fishing business in the coastal areas contributes immensely to self employment and the economy of the state and that water transportation is a major means of movement of goods by residents of coastal communities that must be protected by security.
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Obiora Medani, during his Annual Inspection at NNS Jubilee in Ikot Abasi, Akwa Ibom State, disclosed that his command has intensified patrol of the borders and waterways of Akwa Ibom and Cross River States to check the activities of the sea pirates.
The naval boss explained that the operation is not to witch hunt or cause economic hardship and appealed to the people of the coastal communities to bear with the inconveniences experienced as normalcy would soon return to the areas. He promised that his men will intensify efforts through active patrol to reduce sea robbery and other criminal activities along Oron in Akwa Ibom and Ikang in Cross River State, to the barest minimum.
Speaking further, the naval boss blamed the inconvenience experienced by the people on the activities of criminals at sea and traced oil theft and sea robberies to unemployment of youths. He called on the federal government to create employment opportunities to stop oil bunkering, noting that activities of oil theft has reduced due to proactive measures of the Navy which forced the criminals to resort to soft targets such as passenger boats in the creeks to compensate for their deprivation caused by naval operations to tighten up security and patrol along Calabar-Oron-Ikang axis.
The naval boss announced that oil theft has reduced from 2.6 million barrels in January 2014 to .8 million barrels in September2014.
by Sunny Edemenang