The Nigerian Navy, Forward Operating Base, Ibaka, in the Mbo Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, has dismissed media reports that its personnel collect money from fishermen to protect them at high sea during fishing expeditions.
The Base Operation Officer, Lt. Commander Samuel Olowookere, said the said publication including the comments that over 700 sea militants invaded Ibaka beach and kidnapped five fishermen and siezed nine engines came to them a surprise.
The commanding officer said this during a meeting with representatives and stakeholders of the Fishermen Association in Ibaka, which was held in Ibaka, Mbo LGA.
He said, “No fisherman during the period of our stay here or prior to our stay here paid Nigerian Navy money for any work done.
“They have had occasions where their boats capsized at sea, where the Base has been prompt in providing them assistance at no cost. In fact, of recent there was one that we did less than five months ago, where one of their boats had issues.
“They promised to give the Base three drums of fuel which we vehemently rejected. We don’t collect money for work. We are here to protect fishermen and other legitimate users of water. So, our responsibility is to protect the fishermen and other persons that use the waterways as a means of transportation or as a means of economic activity.”
Speaking on the alleged invasion of Ibaka beach by over 700 militants, he said, “It is not true that over 700 pirates invaded Ibaka community. If over 700 sea pirates invaded Ibaka, I am not sure the Base will be functioning by now; maybe I would have been dead, because they would have overrun every living thing within this area.
“Also, the comment on the kidnapped of five victims., to the best of our knowledge and the engagement of the stakeholders, nothing of such happened on the day mentioned as well as even the carting away of nine engine boats. They have confirmed to us that nothing happened and you can corroborate from them that nothing of such happened.”
One of the stakeholders of the fishermen who doubles as the spokesperson of the aassociation, Ibaka chapter, Mr. Ogunbiyi Johnbull, said the report that militants invaded Ibaka beach was false, adding that they were shocked at the report.
He said the fishermen have cordial relationship with the Nigerian Navy in Ibaka, adding that when there were issues, they came to their rescue.
“When we heard the information about 700 sea pirates invading Ibaka beach, carting away boat engines worth N6m, we were shocked. If such incident happened, there is no way that it will not affect some of us here in this meeting. We don’t hear such information in the beach except on the pages of newspapers. The story is false. We are not disputing the fact that there are militants in the high sea, but no militant invaded Ibaka beach that Saturday as reported” he added.
Speaking in the same vein, a native of Ibaka, Uduak Isemin, said it was wrong to spread such false information.