• I paid N57, 000 for admission — trainee
By OKOSUN DENNIS
AN illegal Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force training camp located at Oto Awori, Ijanikin, along Lagos-Badagry expressway, has been smashed. Four staffers, 12 trainees were arrested by the Nigerian Navy.
The arrest of the suspects was made possible following an earlier arrest of Navy Warrant Officer, Lukumon Bello, an impostor by soldiers at Irekiti in Badagry, after he had paraded himself as a naval officer.
After thorough interrogation, men of the Nigerian Navy Forward Operating Base (FOB), Badagry, led by the Commanding Officer, Commodore Simon Gerson Dogo swooped on the camp and arrested additional 15 persons with age bracket between 17 to 42 years old.
However, the Commanding Officer, NNS Beecroft, Commodore Maurice Eno told National Daily in his office that “those arrested included 13 males and three females with different educational background.”
He gave their names as: Commander Adewale Seun (CO), Mr Musa Masiru – trainee; Miss Olabimi Bisola; Lukman Bello; Sunday Sule; Ilesanmi Quadri; Dauda Dogara; Beshel Godswill; Lt Adeoye Busuyi; SM Awha Seyon; OS Monday James; Miss Cecilia U. Okpa Trainee; Manmanse Foiter O.S; Mr Olowokere Babatunde Trainee; and Adebayo Blessing Trainee.
He further disclosed that the recruited suspects were made to pay N30, 000 as training fees noting that the illegal facility has 35 trainees out of which 23 other trainees were yet to resume training after the Christmas break.
Cdre Eno reiterated that the training camp was operated illegally as maritime agencies have been “dissolved and proscribed by the federal government of Nigeria through the Federal Government Official Gazette Number 58 Volume 100 dated 28 August 2013.”
Speaking with one of the trainee identified as Miss Olabimi Bisola, explained that she paid N55, 000 for both the forms and trainee letter. “I paid the money to a man called Godwin at Shagamu and was told the training was going to take place in Port Harcourt.”
The 25-year-old, Ondo state born Bisola, expressed disappointment with the organisers of the phantom training school regretting that she was deceived into believing that the training camp was an authentic government institution.
Narrating her ordeal, she added that after paying the money, she was called a month later to resume training in Port Harcourt. “I and few others met Godwin in Shagamu and boarded a bus en-route to Port Harcourt only to detour and told us that the training was now in Lagos.
He claimed that they have found another base. We were supposed to spend six month but had only completed three months training before we were arrested by the Navy.
“They told us to be patient that the academy would be approved by the government before the completion of training. We have been deceived and are innocent. We fed ourselves but sometimes, our commanding officer gave us some money to feed. We were seven female and 29 male on training.
The arrested Commanding Officer of the illegal training camp, Commander Adewale Seun tried to justify the existence of Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force adding that it was not proscribed by the federal government. He told National Daily that every necessary documentation have been perfected awaiting assent by the government. When asked to support his argument with relevant sections of the law and which particular office of government that is handling the registration, he was mute.
Adewale noted that they were not part of the merchant navy that has been outlawed. He reiterated that they no longer use the Nigerian Navy’s uniforms and other accoutrements and have no right to arrest them.
“We’re not impersonating Nigerian Navy and not using their property. I don’t see any reason while they should arrest us. In respect of the legal backing of our operations, it is only my Commodore Agaba in Abuja that can explain that. We secure the coastal area and protect lives and properties. We are waiting for the federal government to pronounce us as a registered body as a fourth arm of government. Merchant navy has been in existence since 1941. I am sailor and have worked in different ships before joining merchant navy. I joined Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force since 2002 and we started training people in 2007 under Commodore Edema. At the moment, I have no salary except what I get on board of vessel every month to be paid.
In another development, two young men, Ebube Dike and Isaac Utibe-Abasi, have been arrested by men of the Nigerian Navy at Ilasan New Road, Lekki in Etiosa local government area of Lagos state for illegally dressing and parading themselves as naval personnel.
The suspects who were cladded in Nigerian Navy outlawed camouflage dress were arrested on the 2nd and 5th January, 2017 respectively.
Explaining to our reporter how he was arrested, Ebube added, “I don’t know what went into my head to have worn the uniform, I can’t just explain it. I don’t use it to extort money from people. If I know it was a navy uniform, I wouldn’t have worn it. I only went to buy drugs with it at the chemist shop.”
For the other suspect, Utibe-Abasi, a-31- year-old merchant navy from Akwa Ibom state explained that Ebube was his neighbour. He claimed that his brother, who was a naval officer who brought the uniform to him. Since he left it in my house and knew it was an offence to be in possession of it, I wanted to burn it but Ebube collected it from me,” he added.
But when our reporter confronted Ebube about the allegation, the following altercation ensued: “Is your brother a navy officer? I don’t know what he is talking about.”
Utibe: “You better talk the true and be helped. He introduced his brother to me. I am a seaman, a merchant navy and I sail upon a vessel. He left the uniform in my house hence I wanted to burn it, he concluded.
However, the Commanding officer, NNS Beecroft, Commodore Eno hinted National Daily that “there are other collaborators that are equally illegally parading themselves as naval personnel.” He warned them to change their nefarious activities and pursue legal means of livelihood.
Receiving the handing over of the 18 suspects to the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence (NSCDC), at the NNS Beecroft parade ground, the Lagos State Commandant Tajudeen Balogun expressed satisfaction with the robust cooperation between the Nigerian Navy and his organisation reiterating that they would carry out diligent investigation and prosecution of the culprits that would be found culpable.