Fake Commodore arrested over military outfit
The man identified as “Commodore” Benson Edema, was transferred to the custody of Nigerian Navy, following his arrest after he allegedly assaulted men of the Lagos State Transport Management Authority (LASTMA).
Edema said he had already recruited 10,000 men and assigned them roles of policing the nation’s waterways, a role running parallel with that of the Nigerian Navy.
The group, which he tagged, Nigerian Merchant Navy Corps, Daily Sun gathered, was established to check crime, prevent disasters and also combat oil pipeline vandals among others, which were conflicting with those of the police and the Nigerian Navy.
Daily Sun investigation revealed that the Head of the organization who was a welder with Nigerian National Shipping Line (NNSL) had been offering his 10,000 man army military training at various locations in Lagos.
Edema who is currently being detained by the Nigerian Navy for alleged impersonation was said to have told the Naval police that approval to establish the force was given to him by former President Olusegun Obasanjo on September 29, 2006 on a Radio Nigeria programme.
He also said that he had been training his men in the use of arms and ammunition and to master the use of weapons, following the order given to him on Radio Nigeria by Obasanjo.
Edema who was a Lieutenant (Captain equivalent in the Army) in July 2007, but now wears a Commodore rank (one star General) said he was pushed to make the proposal following the joblessness of his colleagues, who were seafarers and former staffers of NNSL.
He said some of his colleagues who were seafarers and fed up with joblessness, had also joined militants operating in the Niger Delta and had been in the forefront of kidnaps of oil workers in the area.
Already, he said his Merchant Navy Corps had deployed its men in Lagos, Delta, Akwa Ibom, Rivers, Ondo, Cross River and Bayelsa states.
At the Nigeria Maritime Administration Safety Agency (NIMASA) an extensive investigation was conducted to ascertain the authenticity of the corps especially following the allegation that the directives to establish the Nigeria Merchant Navy Corps were given by former President Obasanjo.
NIMASA in a letter to Presidency on November 16, 2007, had dissociated itself from the organization known as the Nigerian Merchant Navy.
The letter which was signed by the Director General of NIMASA, Dr. S.A. Dosunmu said that, “the so-called Nigerian Merchant Navy is not known in the law establishing the NIMASA (NIMASA ACT 2007) nor the Nigerian Merchant Shipping Act 2007 that delegated the function of the Maritime Safety Administration to NIMASA.”
Dosunmu equally declared that the Nigerian Merchant Navy is not an Agency under the NIMASA.
A document forwarded by the Maritime Group command of NIMASA, had also sought for clarification from the Nigeria Navy, especially to know if they were aware of the existence of the Nigerian Merchant Navy Corps.
However, while the Nigerian Navy was working towards getting clarification as to who were responsible for the setting up of the Merchant Navy Corps, Maritime Workers’ Union of Nigeria in a letter reference SNWTB/1/EAB/Vol.3/07 dated November 1, 2007 and addressed to the Chief of Naval Staff, Nigeria Navy gave a clear profile of Commodore Edema.
The letter jointly signed by J.T. Horsefall and Tanko Danladi, president and General Secretary respectively, said that Edema served as a welder in 1994 with MV River Ikpan, a vessel owned by the defunct NNSL and had a total sea time of two years and three months.
The union was amazed that “overnight, Edema metamorphosed into a Navy Commodore, parading himself as such and committing all sorts of atrocities in that capacity and going about wreaking havoc in the society.”
Similarly, the Nigeria Merchant Navy officers and Water Transport Senior Staff Association in a letter to the Flag Officer commanding Western Naval Command urged the Navy to urgently intervene and stop Edema from jeopardizing security of the nation.
The group in the letter jointly signed by Captain Thomas Kemewarinta and Matthew Idowu, National President and General Secretary respectively said there was need to put the Edema group in check, especially as “the group has been illegally extorting money from unsuspecting members of the public.