A joint operation by the Nigerian Navy and the United States Coast Guard last week arrested nine individuals, including three Greek citizens and one American, off the coast of Nigeria.
A Nigerian Navy official told local media that the suspect’s boat was boarded after the captain had apparently lied regarding how many people were on board.
Upon boarding the vessel, the naval authorities discovered that there were indeed more people on board than had been claimed, and a subsequent search of the vessel turned up weapons. The seized items included four semi-automatic rifles as well as ammunition and military-style gear.
The official also indicated that the boat’s tracking and communications equipment had been turned off, and the vessel had been painted in colors that the Nigerian Navy uses for its vessels, which added to suspicions about the use of the ship.
“What they are doing on our waters, we do not know,” the Nigerian official stated.
According to a maritime specialist site called gcaptain.com, the suspects were part of a maritime security team providing anti-piracy services in the Gulf of Guinea region.
However, local website legit.ng reports claims by Nigerian officials saying that the four foreigners arrested were actually pirates.
Piracy is prominent along the coast of West Africa and it poses a major threat to peace and development in the region, according to a United Nations report published in January of 2019.
The same report estimated that Nigeria had lost approximately $2.8 billion during 2018 as a direct result of maritime crimes involving crude oil shipments.