By Okosun Dennis
In a bid to thwart Illegal Unreported Unregulated Fishery (IUUF) in the coaster waters and improve the incomes of fishermen, enhance rural development and food security, the Nigerian Navy has handed over six riverine boats built by the Nigerian Naval Dockyard to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD).
The boats were handed over by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ikechukwu Ogalla to the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD), Dr. Ernest Umakhihe, who was represented by the Director, Special Duties, Mrs Fausat Lawal, at the Naval Dockyard Jetty, Victoria Island, Lagos on Thursday.
Earlier, in a brief ceremony at the Conference Room, the CNS expressed joy in handing over the six personnel carrier Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) Riverine Boats to the Ministry, which would enhance accessibility to riverine communities by monitoring and supporting agricultural activities towards ensuring food security in Nigeria.
The CNS observed that the production of the 7.5m boats with a cruising speed of about 12 knots with outboard engines propulsion system for the Ministry, further enhanced existing collaboration and synergy between both institutions of government which would help at promoting food and environmental security in Nigeria.
Admiral Ogalla further remarked that the Nigerian Navy has, and would always, synergize with FMARD in curbing national security threats such as the activities of Illegal Unreported Unregulated Fishing (IUUF) within the maritime domain.
He explained that “the construction of these boats for the Ministry is reflective of the collaboration between both institutions in consonance with the NN mandates.
“This occasion is particularly special as it connotes several landmark moments that exist between the Nigeria Navy and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, as the relationship between both government institutions is based on mutual interests and shared values that date back in history.
“The Ministry of Agriculture is one of the first partners in progress of the Nigerian Navy, as the Navy and personnel of the Department of Fisheries conducted joint patrols in enforcing fishery and environmental protection laws of Nigeria,” the CNS emphasized.
The Director of Special, Mrs. Fausat Lawal, thanked the NN for their ingenuity and technological innovations as demonstrated by the Naval Dockyard Limited.
“The handing over of the boats sends a clear message to those who engage in IUUF that their actions will not go unnoticed but will be punished.”
She further explained that the boats are a significant step to combat IUUF within our coaster waters as they represent a critical tool in the ministry’s collective fight against IUU fishing; a menace that threatens the sustainability of fisheries and the livelihoods of corporate individuals who depend on it.
On his part as the Admiral Superintendent of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Bolaji Orederu, who was pivotal to the conceptualization of the boats, said he was glad that the boats have been handed over to the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Adumbrating that the boats were awarded for construction in 2013 and has since been completed, added that “The boats were conceptualized by myself as the General Manager and the design was done by Captain Charles Obute while serving in the Yard as the General Manager Plans.
“The boats were purpose-built for the Ministry to meet their needs for reaching out to riverine communities by monitoring and supporting agricultural activities towards ensuring food security in the country,” Rear Admiral Orederu reemphasized.
One of the beneficiary states, Akwa Ibom, Dr. Offiong Offor, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, who stood in for the State Governor, Pastor Umo Eno said illegal fishing on coaster waters have been going on in the local government areas of the state and affected livelihood and food security as the farmers have been constantly facing challenges in their respective trade.
“These boats will help us patrol and improve on their incomes as fishermen and women in our communities; enhance food security and rural development.
Also represented was the Governor of Lagos State, Babajide Sanwo-Olu by the Deputy Chief of Staff, Mr Gboyega Shoyannwo.
According to him, the boats will assist in eliminating IUUF, as the coastal states of Nigeria, including Lagos, have long been confronted with the challenges posed by Illegal, Unregulated, and unreported fishing activities (IUU).
These illegal activities not only disrupt fish biodiversity in the State’s aquatic ecosystem but also adversely affected the livelihood of over 150,000 fisher-folks operating in 325 artisanal fishing communities spread across the 20 Local Governments (LGAs) and 37 Local Council Development Areas (LCDAs) of the State whose predominant occupation is fishing.
The boats have been distributed to four coaster states which included Lagos, Rivers, Cross Rivers, and Akwa Ibom States, and would serve as a symbol for the federal government to protect the marine sector.
Naval Dockyard Limited as a strategic national asset, is reputed for initiating, building, and constructing ships for the Nigerian Navy. It has singlehanded built three ships for NN, which include NNS Andoni, NNS Karaduwa, and NNS Oji with two others expected to commence soon.
Present at the handing over were the Flag Officers Commanding (FOCs) Western Naval Command and Naval Training Command (NAVTRAC) respectively, officers of Naval Dockyard Limited and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.