Crude oil theft, IUU fishing: Nigerian Navy, Atlantic French Naval Forces further cooperation against maritime domain criminalities
The Nigerian Navy on Wednesday said it would continue to fight against crude oil theft, which is an economic sabotage against the nation.
The Chief Staff Officer of the Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Hamza Kaoje, made this known while hosting the Atlantic French Naval Forces led by Admiral Olivier Lebas.
Responding to questions on the issue of crude oil theft, Admiral Kaoje said that the preparedness of the navy to tackle the problem led to the establishment of Operation ‘Dakatar Da Barawo’ which is translated to mean “Stopping the Thief.”
He said: “The navy has been doing so much to tackle oil theft. Just recently, Nigerian Navy under the leadership of the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Gambo, launched ‘operation Dakatar Da Barawo’…meaning “Stopping the Thief.”
“You are all aware that over some times now we have had crude oil theft. Nigerian Navy has deployed over 26 vessels to the Niger Delta. We have made a lot of arrests as well.
“Nobody will sit down and allow criminalities to overtake its maritime domain. The Nigerian Navy is poised to deal with anybody, no matter how highly placed that person or group of persons are. We are ready and we are prepared to ensure we stamp out crude oil theft.”
On his part, the Chief of the Atlantic French Naval Forces, Admiral Lebas, lauded Nigeria for staying committed to the fight against piracy, which he said led to a sharp decrease in piracy cases in 2021.
He also raised the issue of illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, which has continued to threaten economic stability of communities that depend on coastal fishing for a living.
His words: “Nigeria is clearly a key actor in the region. For us, we have established confidence and very efficient cooperation between the two navies, which of course is a priority of the French Navy. We have a lot of common issues to talk, common objectives to share, and that is why we have taken time today for that.
“We talk about maritime security in the region and I will like to highlight the very strong commitment of Nigerian Government, Nigerian Navy to tackle piracy. And we can observe today the huge decrease of the treat during the last year. Thanks to all these efforts.
“We are also concerned about other problems in the world, in terms of maritime security. I want to speak about IUU fishing. Everywhere in the world, it is clearly an issue that needs to be addressed. We also see illegal trafficking of persons, pollution and more.”
Speaking on further measures against IUU fishing, Admiral Lebas added that: “It is a common objective to tackle the issue of IUU fishing, in order to stop that disaster. And it is only by international cooperation, common measures. For example, I have discovered that during the One Ocean Summit, two months ago, it was decided to foster all the legal tools and cooperation in the frame of the European Union, to tackle the issue of IUU fishing.”
He said that as chief of the French naval operation in the region, his objective is to increase the already existing cooperation with the Nigerian Navy.
He also spoke concerning a joint exercise with objective of fighting against IUU fishing.
He said: “Today, we are conducting a common exercise with some countries of this region; Nigeria, Benin, Togo and France in a specific exercise named Grand African NEMO. And the main objective of this exercise is to foster capability to fight against the IUU fishing.
Earlier, Rear Adm. Kaoje said further cooperation was needed in hydrography training, while he used the opportunity to request that France considers having a centre in Nigeria where spare parts for boats would be established, to make it easy for African countries.
“We have a lot of vessels bought from France, but most times if we have to buy the spares we have to go back looking for these spares.
“Nigeria now is a hub and so many other countries including Algeria, bought some of these vessels from you. So, if you make Nigeria a hub where these spares can be bought, I think it would become easy for African countries to get these in Nigeria,” Admiral Kaoje said.
Both navies look forward to greater cooperation and to participate in common exercises like the Grand African NEMO (Navy Exercise for Maritime Operation) and Obangame Express, coming up soon.