Commander of the Nigerian Navy Ship Pathfinder, Port Harcourt, Commodore Sanusi Ibrahim, said members of the gang were apprehended when navy operatives stormed their hideouts in some parts of the state capital.
Ibrahim explained that while eight of the suspects were immigrants from Niger Republic, 18 others claimed they were Nigerians.
He stated that security operatives were able to storm the criminal hideouts after the Navy received intelligence report about the continued harassment and intimidation of some Port Harcourt residents.
The NNS Pathfinder commander pointed out that apart from the harassment of innocent citizens, the suspects were also arrested for their alleged involvement in armed robbery and drug peddling.
Ibrahim said, “Troops of NNS Pathfinder raided a ‘Mami market’ around Borokiri area of Port Harcourt following intelligence report of criminal activities and presence of illegal migrants in the area.
“Following the raid, eight illegal migrants from Niger Republic were arrested over their involvement in drug peddling, robbery and harassment of innocent citizens in the area. Also arrested during the raid were 18 others, who claimed to be Nigerians.”
Ibrahim, who spoke through the NNS Pathfinder’s Base Operations Officer, Cdr. Chidi Ejiofor, disclosed that the action of the Navy became necessary as a result of the current security challenges in the North-East and other parts of the country.
The suspects were later handed over to the Nigerian Immigration Service for further investigation and possible deportation of the suspected illegal migrants.
However, the Assistant Controller of the NIS, Port Harcourt, Mr. Ahmed Isiaku, expressed the need for intelligence sharing among security agencies in the state.
Isiaku argued that the collaboration among security agencies would encourage the arrest of more criminals and terrorists, particularly at a period some Boko Haram insurgents were escaping to other parts of Nigeria to take refuge.
According to him, “We are grateful for the effort and synergy shown by the navy in the arrest of illegal migrants considering the present security challenges caused by Boko Haram insurgency in the North-East.
“Intelligence report shows that with current pressure being mounted on insurgents in the North-East by the military, insurgents are fleeing to the south and other parts of the country to take refuge.
“Collaboration with other security agencies will enable NIS to flush out and checkmate illegal aliens and their known associates from the state. The eight illegal migrants will be thoroughly screened and deported to their countries while the other 18 suspects would be handed over to the police for prosecution.”
By Pita Ochai