By Izuchukwu Ozoemena
Poor policing by local communities, inadequate infrastructure including lack of platforms and skilled manpower, among others, have been identified as challenges militating against police efforts at maintaining a safe and secure maritime environment. As a responsible member of the global community and the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Nigeria Police Nigeria has several obligations under the relevant conventions to establish systems of rescue, securing oil pipelines, control of pollution at sea including the dumping of radioactive wastes. This has become imperative following official revelations from the Nigerian Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (NEITI) indicating that between 2011 and 2014, 200,000 to 400,000 barrels of crude oil were stolen from Nigeria leading to a daily loss of about USD15.9 billion within the same period.
The Inspector-General of Police, Mr Ibrahim K. Idris stated this in Lagos Tuesday while speaking on the topic Effective Maritime Security & Safety for Sustainable Maritime Development at the 2018 World Maritime Day celebration. He stated that the sea can be a channel for all kinds of national and transnational crimes such as kidnapping, oil theft, drug trafficking, piracy and illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition which constitute a great threat to national security.
According to the police boss, Nigeria Police Force, a creation of section 214 of the 1999 Constitution, is saddled with specific duties including that of protecting lives and property as stipulated by section 4 of the Police Act, Cap P19 Laws of the Federation 2010. On mechanisms put in place by the Nigeria Police Force for combating maritime crimes, the police chief regretted that policing the waters in Nigeria is restricted to the navigable inland waterways as against the sea which is secured by the armed forces.
He observed that being a community-oriented service, the effectiveness of the Nigeria Police is generally hampered by apathy and indifference by community members that the police is established to render service to. He regretted that many communities especially where marine-related crimes are committed, the community members who should assist the police by volunteering timely information either participate in such crimes as a way of “getting their own national cake” or remain indifferent as their kith and kins enrich themselves from proceeds of crime irrespective of the consequences on the environment as well as the economy of the community and the nation at large.
“A vivid example is the case of vandalization of pipelines and running of illegal refineries in the creeks of the Niger Delta region”, the IG stated, where community members are in the habit of shielding the perpetrators not caring a hoot about the consequences of their action on the community.
On the inadequacy of infrastructure and platforms for effective discharge of her duties, the police chief said most of the police stations saddled with the task of protecting maritime establishments lack infrastructures such as jetties, slip- ways, workshops, fuel dumps as well as platforms including combat gun boats and backup boats. Others include fast interceptor boats, equipment conveyance boats, etc, a situation that adversely affects the effective discharge of duty by officers and men deployed to such areas.
“The force is also beleaguered by lack of skilled manpower such as marine engineers, nautical scientists, quartermasters, river masters, boat operators and marine engineering assistants”, the police boss disclosed. “It is sad that the last time recruitment was done into the Nigeria Police Force Marine Police was in the year 2003, leaving the vacancies created by retirements and other forms of loss of manpower since the period.”
To overcome the challenges, therefore, the IG advocated closer cooperation and partnership between the police and other security agencies and the local communities. “The Force, through its community policing programme, appreciates the importance of this partnership between it and the communities as well as other stakeholders in solving the problem of crime and creating a safe and secure environment.” He sued for cooperation of the communities and other stakeholders in the waterways through prompt information on those incidents that threaten their security and the marine environment.
While hailing the government for providing marine infrastructure and platforms for the force, he appealed that a whole lot is still needed even as consideration is being given to other areas that are competing for government’s scarce resources. “The stakeholders should support the Force in advocating for government approval for the recruitment of the above stated professionals whose strength in the Police Marine Section have waned over time owing to retirement and other forms of disengagement from the Force”.