Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo has called on the judiciary to complement the efforts of the Nigerian Navy and other maritime security agencies in ensuring that cases of sea piracy, illegal bunkering and other illicit activities receive speedy trials.
Speaking during a lecture on his mission and vision for the Nigerian Navy to participants of the Naval War College Course 6 in Calabar, Vice Admiral Gambo disclosed that there was need for the existing loopholes in the judicial process, which revolves around lengthy trial periods, to be closed to checkmate its exploitation by criminal elements.
He observed that the endless trial periods were responsible for prolonged litigations and several abandoned vessels across Nigerian Navy bases.
Admiral Gambo said, “The effect of this lengthy trial processes to the Nigerian Navy is evident in instances where out of the 488 vessels arrested between 2015 till date, 234 were handed over to prosecuting agencies.
“Yet, only 52 have been successfully prosecuted, while others were still in the Nigerian Navy custody. Beyond the logistic and man power committed to this process, the Nigerian Navy expend enormous resources to preserve and keep over 100 detained vessels afloat,” he said.
On the possible way out, the CNS suggested that a legal framework to enable the navy prosecute maritime crimes would suffice as further deterrent to criminals and lessen burden of holding seized vessels in custody even as he noted that the navy was not backed by law to prosecute maritime suspects in court like agencies such as the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, the Nigeria Police and similar organizations.
His words, “The service relies on lawyers from the Ministry of Defense and other security agencies, while retaining services of private lawyers to prosecute maritime criminals.
“Even though the Navy has an established Directorate of Legal Services with the current strength of over 600 qualified lawyers, in the last four years, the Navy has lost a significant number of cases due to non-diligent prosecution.
He lamented that, “The service has also expended almost N300 Million on services provided by private lawyers at the expense of other essential infrastructure”.
The CNS commended the Nigerian government on the provision of operational equipment for the Navy’s efficiency and other interventions, especially on infrastructure to make the service accomplish its strategic mandate.
In another development, Vice Admiral Gambo has unveiled a newly established recreational facility at the Eastern Naval Command headquarters in Calabar, Cross Rivers State.
The multipurpose facility consists of a building comprising a mini-mart and restaurant located beside a renovated 50 by 25 size swimming pool and lounge to improve the skills of its personnel and for recreational purpose.
Speaking at its unveiling, Vice Admiral Gambo commended the Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ibrahim Dewu and his team for taking the initiative to provide facilities that would boost morale of personnel and impact efficiency.
“It is always good to add value when you come to a place so that others will be inspired, get leverage and bequeath something for others. That is how a system grows. I hereby commission the remodeled Eastern Naval Command swimming pool and lounge”.
“I have the honour and privilege to commission the Headquarters Eastern Naval Command mini mart and restaurant block to the glory of God and benefit of mankind. Congratulations to the Flag Officer Commanding and your team.
In a similar vein, the CNS inspected during the working visit, inspected the ongoing Naval War College Permanent Site Project and commended the contractor for speedily working towards meeting its deadline.
Admiral Gambo said, the project is aimed at bridging the gap between operational and strategic level manpower, who will be well grounded in operational art, design, campaign, planning, decision making process as well as the theories of peace and war.
He added that the NWC will also serve as a Centre of excellence for variety of technically related ventures.