MEN of the Lagos State Police Command have smashed a military camp belonging to the outlawed merchant navy in the Ogudu area of the state and arrested 107 trainees being trained to become military personnel.
Hakeem Odumosu, the Lagos State police commissioner, said the command, in its efforts to curtail the activities of the illegal merchant navy or similar outfits raided their camp yesterday morning. He said the trainees were arrested around 11am, alongside their so-called commanding officer, one Sunday Dakare, 47.
Mr Odumosu said: “There has been credible actionable intelligence on the illegal activities of the merchant navy, following which the command embarked on intensive surveillance on the camp and its activities therein. Consequent upon intensive monitoring of the camp and its operators, the command carried out a well-coordinated overt operation at the training camp.”
He added that during the raid, the police recovered several military accoutrements including, camouflage uniforms, badges of ranks, flags, signboards and identity cards. Other items recovered include recruitment letters, promotion letters, portraits of the commanding officer, two motorcycles, one plasma TV, three cutlasses, charms and other items.
As far back as 2017, the police raided a training camp belonging to the merchant navy in Ogun State. It has also been the target of attacks by Nigerian Navy officials who often accuse this so-called merchant navy of impersonation.
Mr Odumosu added that in the course of interrogation, it was discovered that the Nigerian Merchant Navy, also called the Coastal Defence Force, has been operating illegally since 2005. During the latest raid, a portrait of the chief of the Nigerian Merchant Navy, Commodore Ichukwu Agaba, was retrieved from the training centre.
Totally illegal, the Nigerian Merchant Navy is not a recognised entity by the Nigerian government and was not created by any act of law. However, despite being outlawed, the groups operates like a military outfit, giving training to unsuspecting young Nigerians.”
Mr Odumosu added: “This trend portends danger for our nation and a threat to peace and security. It, therefore, behoves on us as a law enforcement agency to enforce such law banning activities of the illegal military outfit.”
Mr Dakare said they have been recruiting, training personnel and waiting for the federal government to recognise them, just like civil defence. He added that the merchant navy is not carrying out any operation as they are only recruiting.
“Our form is free, we don’t take a dime from anybody and if you come, we can recruit you. Our group was not outlawed as are only waiting for recognition from the federal government,” Mr Dakare added.