Sea pirates take over Calabar-Cameroon waterways…Kidnap traders, travellers

From Judex Okoro, Calabar

Business activities along Calabar-Cameroon waterways and the coastal towns are at a lull following persistent attacks on travellers by sea pirates. The pirates kidnap and rob travellers including traders and ship captains. Investigation by Sunday Sun revealed that the sea robbers are mostly former militants between the ages of 20 and 27 suspected to have returned to the creeks.

The hoodlums were said to operate from a creek in James Town axis. It was gathered that recently, they cordoned off the Parot and Agbani Island waterways and attacked hundreds of passengers mostly traders, disposessed them of monies and other valuable items including handsets, jewelleries and handbags. Besides, one of the Captains of a ship named Josephine was kidnapped while other crewmembers were robbed. Speaking to newsmen at the Federal Inland Water Ways office in Calabar, where the vessels berth, one of the captains of the attacked ship said: “The activities of the sea pirates have assumed a dangerous proportion and we are no longer safe doing business in Nigeria.

“This robberies along Parot and Agbani Island have become unbearable; this is the second time we have been robbed this year. One of my colleagues has been kidnapped and they are demanding N20 million as ransom. Our luggage and that of the passengers have been carted away and they took away cash of between 4-5CF amounting to N1.8million,” the visibly angry Captain said. The captain who spoke on condition of anonymity, for fear of being attacked, wondered where they would get the money to secure his colleague’s freedom and urged the Nigerian authorities to beef up security along the waterways.

Speaking on the incident,a trader, Mr Emmanuel Okoh told Sunday Sun that because of these incessant robbery and kidnapping of expatriate captains, some big ships avoid Nigerian route. Okoh, a native of Abia State, said: “Big ships avoid doing business in Calabar for fear of attack by the sea robbers. They have threatened that if nothing was done about it, they would totally boycott Calabar route.”

He confirmed that on Monday, January 28, 2013, around Ikang high sea, the pirates attacked a cargo ship, Josephine, and abducted the Captain. He said that the gunmen also robbed traders and other travellers and took away a reasonable amount of foreign currencies.

Okoh urged Nigerian government and the international community to come to their rescue, “for the sake of our lives and business across the coast.” Reactingto the development, the Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Naval Command, Rear Admiral Joseph Ahikomoh, promised to collaborate with operators of vessels to check further robberies within the Eastern maritime.