About 17 oil workers, including five Nigerians and 12 Pakistanis, have been abducted aboard an ocean going vessel by pirates operating along the nation’s waterways on Monday.
Their ship was allegedly invaded by the pirates and they were abducted even though a Nigerian Navy formation, the Forward Operation Base (FOB), NNS Formoso, was near the area where the abduction took place.
Following the ease with which the operation took place, THISDAY gathered that the action is now causing anxiety among security personnel in the Niger Delta region.
All effort to get the Nigerian Navy to comment on the abduction yesterday proved abortive as they denied knowledge of the attack and the abduction of the oil workers.
The pirates were said to have attacked the ship, MT Matrix at a point near Akassa in Brass local government area of Bayelsa State.
The Nigerian Navy had last week lamented the activities of pirates and vandals along the Akassa, Brass, Sangana and Nembe corridor of the nation’s waterways, saying the area was the most notorious for all manners of illegality in the country.
The 12 Pakistani and five Nigerian crew aboard the vessel were working for Val Oil Trading, a Lagos based oil company when the abduction took place.
Attempts to get the official position from the Nigerian Navy in Bayelsa State failed even though senior officer attached to Forward Operational Base (FOB) known as NNS Formoso in Egweama in Brass area of Bayelsa confirmed the incident, lamenting that “it is not unusual that such incident occur along the area claimed, as it is 40 nautical miles into the high seas. It is difficult in the area.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Trawlers Owners Association (NTOA), has raised the alarm over daily huge losses they incur from pirate attacks off the nation’s coastlines.
The group said about 130 vessels used by its member for fishing activities were either stolen or hijacked with some of their members either killed or kidnapped for ransom.
The President of NTAO, Mr. Joseph Overo, disclosed this yesterday when they visited the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Joseph Ezeoba, on a “Save Our Soul (SOS) call to rescue the association from economic strangulation.
Overo cried out to the naval boss and the federal government for the timely assistance to forestall the deadly attacks by pirates and kidnappers in the high sea, saying that if urgent action was not taken, fish and shrimps would disappear from the country.
He stated that the association which are producers of fish and shrimps for local consumption and export, provides livelihood for over 10,000 Nigerians who are gainfully employed in that sector of the economy.
NTAO President also noted that the danger of these attacks is that when their trawlers are hijacked they can carry it to attack other ships in other country’s territorial waters which can easily create a diplomatic row.
He then appealed to the Navy to adequately police the entrances to the sea where these nefarious activities are often carried out, citing Brass, Adoul and Opobo it occurs constantly.
He said: “I can tell you that in the last 10 years, the association operated over 250 trawling vessels, but now it can only operate 122 because of attacks and kidnapping of our crews. The reason is simple; because we are being attacked on daily basis, and as we speak, the attack is going on.
“ We have therefore come to seek for assistance. We also want to highlight the areas of severe attacks such a Zungeru, Bonny, Opobo. Here vessels are being hijacked and taken out of the country to attack other vessels, this is very dangerous.”
“The worse is the kidnapping and killing of our members. Most times when ransom are not paid on time they can kill these men and we had no option that to quickly pay the ransom to save their families the agony”, he added.