The Federal Republic of Germany yesterday presented five gunboats to the Nigerian Navy for counter-insurgency operations at Lake Chad.
But the excursion organised by the Navy for the Consul General of the German Embassy, Mr. Ingo Herbert, and his team to the Navy Security Station 023 positioned along the Cawthorn Channel after the inauguration turned eventful as the team chased and arrested five suspected oil thieves in three separate incidents.
Handing over the boats to the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ete Ibas, at Onne, Rivers State, the Consul General of Germany in Nigeria, Mr. Ingo Herbert, said the donation was part of his country’s contribution to the fight against insurgency in the North-east of Nigeria.
He also said it was directed at deepening Germany’s partnership with Nigeria and to help build peace and development in the country.
“The five boats are part of the Greater Initiatives of Germany in enhancing the peace and security of partner governments. The focus is to support partner countries in the fight against terrorism,” he said.
He noted that Nigeria is a complex country and that it is difficult to cover the whole area in terms of security. He however said the flat-bottom boats would assist in checking crime in the maritime sector,
“The maritime space sensitively accommodates a lot of activities and movements and therefore prone to security breaches. These boats will not only primarily contribute in your fight in the North-east, but also to fight illegal fishing, oil theft and other maritime crimes,” he said.
He added, “A very important aspect of this donation is that the boats are built in Nigeria. So it is actually a co-operation and has full local content.”
He recalled that he had recently inaugurated a vocational training centre in Port Harcourt equipped with German technology, adding that more German firms were coming to Nigeria to contribute to the development of the country.
Receiving the boats, Ibas said by the donation, the maritime landscape of the nation, especially the Lake Chad area, was gradually being accorded much needed security for the stability and prosperity of the country.
Ibas, who was represented by Chief of Logistics, Naval Headquarters, Rear Admiral James Oluwole, lamented: “Today, our nation is at crossroad, challenged by multi-faceted threats with grave manifestations, especially in the North-eastern Region and the maritime environment where the Nigerian Navy is the lead security agency. These challenges require enormous resources to surmount.”
He however said in line with the strategic partnership between both nations, Germany has assisted the Nigerian Navy with the five riverine patrol boats to fight the insurgency and criminality in the North-east.
He disclosed that the five boats were built locally by Epenal Boat Yard and fitted with 2 x 8.2m HP Yamaha Outboard Engines, mounting for 12.7mm and Automatic Grenade Launchers (AGL).
Ibas also noted that Germany had earlier supported the Nigerian Navy in provision of Motorised Turbine Unit (MTU) series training engines as well as training of 23 naval personnel on MTU engines in Germany.
“It is satisfying that Germany, in its strategic partnership with Nigeria, continue to remain true and committed to navy’s dream. By your effort, the maritime landscape of our nation, especially the Lake Chad area, is gradually being accorded much needed security, stability and prosperity.”
After the inauguration of the boats, the German officials were taken on sail to the Cawthorn Channel through some creeks of the Niger Delta.
In the course of the boat ride, the team in three different incidents chased and arrested five suspected oil thieves with speed boats laden with locally refined petroleum products popularly called in local parlancekpo-fire.
The suspects were brought back to Onne where the naval personnel said they would be interrogated and later handed over to the police for necessary action.
Commenting on the incidents, the German Consul General, Herbert, said the trip opened his eyes to the enormity of the challenges faced by the Nigerian Navy and the Government in combating crime in the creeks.
“I am glad that the German Government through the donation we made today to the Nigerian Navy could assist the Nigerian Government to deal with this kind of situations. I saw the vast area, the challenges with regard to the ecological system, to the people and the challenge to restore the Rule of Law and security. I appreciate the efforts of the Nigerian Navy,” Herbert said.