The bad blood between officers of the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Merchant Navy resurfaced in Lagos Monday with the former accusing the latter of impersonation.
Three officers of the Nigerian Navy, Western Command, B-Croft, trailed some members of the Nigerian Merchant Navy to Apapa where they allegedly attacked them.
Allen Edema, the Director General of the Nigerian Merchant Navy, was reportedly stripped naked during the incident which occurred between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
According to a petition by the Network of Police Reforms in Nigeria (NOPRIN), the naval officers threatened to capture Mr. Edema “dead or alive”.
“Three members of the Nigerian Merchant Navy who had just left their DG at his hotel at Okun-Owa, Apapa, were accosted by three men who claimed to be Nigerian Navy officers,” stated the petition signed by Okechukwu Nwanguma, National Coordinator, NOPRIN, and addressed to the Office of the Chief of Defence Staff.
”The three Nigerian Navy officers attacked the three Nigerian Merchant Navy officers, accusing them of impersonating the Nigerian Navy,” added the petition, which was also copied to the Chief of Naval Staff, the Inspector General of Police, and the Minister of Transport.
The Nigerian Merchant Navy, Coast Guard, Seafarers, Maritime and Petroleum Security and Safety Corps were registered with ranks, uniforms, and kits by the Federal Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
Attempts by the Merchant Navy officers to explain who they were to the Nigerian Navy officers reportedly fell on deaf ears.
“As the three members of the Nigerian Navy continued to drag the NMN officers, their DG who had just come out to buy some drugs at a nearby Pharmacy met his men being attacked.
“As soon as his members called his attention, the NN officers turned to him and shouted ‘Oh you are the Edema our FOC (Flag Officer Commanding) has been looking for.’
“They immediately pounced on him, assaulted him and rendered him naked.”
To defend their boss, the Merchant Navy officers fought back.
“While two other Nigerian Navy Officers fled, Ahmed Eddy (one of the naval officers) was dragged by members of the NMN to the nearest police station Tolu Police Station, Apapa, where they incidented a report of assault against him and others,” NOPRIN stated.
To their shock, instead of impartially investigating the complaint,
the Divisional Crime Officer (DCO) of Tolu Station released Ahmed Eddy, the Nigerian Navy Officer, and instead, detained the DG of the NMN, Commodore Edema.”
Ever since Mr. Edema’s detention, according to NOPRIN, officers of the Nigerian Navy Western Command continued to mobilize and lay ambush for Mr. Edema and his men, threatening openly that their FOC “wants them dead or alive”.
Mr. Edema had already made a statement to the police station alleging the plot by naval FOC and his men to kidnap him and his members.
On Tuesday, barely 24 hours after the clash, some officers of the Nigerian Navy operating with two OP-MESA Hilux Vans allegedly invaded the residence of one of the members of the NMN, Joseph Ekimbe, residing in Apapa.
“He (Mr. Ekimbe) was fortunate not to be around when they came,” stated NOPRIN.
“The Nigerian Navy officers also invaded the hotel where Edema was lodging. They also went to the police station asking the police to release him to them.”
A history of bad blood
The Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Merchant Navy have a history of face-offs ever since the latter’s establishment.
A source knowledgeable about the relationship between the two organizations told PREMIUM TIMES that the merchant navy was not a registered body.
“And even if they want to register as an association, they should not be using navy uniform. Navy is a military outfit,” said the source who did not want to be named.
“And using their uniforms, ranks, and their badges, that’s impersonation. You are impersonating the navy. Even in Corporate Affairs Commission, if you are registering, you cannot be using the same logo or item with another company.”
In 2014, then Transport Minister, Idris Umar, stated that the Nigerian Merchant Navy Corps remained an illegal organization.
“The Nigerian Merchant Navy Corps and two other organizations had been proscribed by the Federal Republic of Nigeria official Gazette No. 68 volume 100,” Mr. Idris had said.
Recently, the Senate Committee on Navy headed by Bode Olajumoke, summoned the Nigerian Navy high Command and the DG of the NMN and asked both to go and maintain peace.
NOPRIN argued that the Merchant Navy remained a legal organization and not a criminal organization as claimed by the Nigerian Navy, Western Command.
“Recently, the Chief of Naval Staff granted an interview acknowledging that the Nigerian Navy and the Nigerian Merchant Navy should collaborate in issues of maritime security,” said Mr. Nwanguma.
“Therefore, we wonder why officers at Western Naval Command are fixated with hatred for the Nigerian Merchant Navy.
“Sometime in 2004, a High Court in Lagos gave an Order that the Nigerian Western Naval Command, B-Croft, Apapa, should desist from further violating the rights of members of the Nigerian Merchant Navy.
“But they have continued to do this.”
Abdulkadir Abdulkadir, Public Relations Officer, Western Naval Command, told PREMIUM TIMES he was not aware of the clash.
“We are at the Command level, we are to receive directives from higher up,” said Mr. Abdulkadir, a Lieutenant Commodore.
“Anything like that goes to Abuja, then if there is any issue they will now direct the Command to act.”
Phone calls to the Naval Headquarters in Abuja were not answered.
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