Operatives of the Nigerian Navy in Badagry, have smashed a camp in Ijanikin, Lagos, which was being used for recruiting and training “unsuspecting members of the public.”
PUNCH Metro learnt that suspected fraudsters collected sums ranging between N50,000 and N150,000 from their victims across the country under the guise of recruiting them into the navy.
After paying the sums, the aspiring naval officials were taken to the training camp, only to discover that they were being enrolled in Nigerian Merchant Navy Coastal Defence Force, whose operations have not been approved by the Federal Government.
Sixteen recruits, three trainers, and one Commander Adewale Oluwaseun, who allegedly coordinated the training, were paraded at the Western Naval Command, Apapa on Friday. It was gathered that some of the trainees had not returned to the camp from the Yuletide holiday.
Our correspondent learnt that the camp was uncovered by naval operatives attached to the Forward Operation Base, Badagry, led by the Commanding Officer, Commodore Simon Dogo.
One of the trainees, 29-year-old Musa Nasir, a graduate from Edo State, told PUNCH Metro that he paid N150,000 to a friend to facilitate his recruitment in the Nigerian Navy, adding that it was when he got to the camp he discovered he had been defrauded.
He said, “I studied Banking and Finance in a polytechnic in Zamfara State. I had the ambition of becoming a naval officer right from my secondary school. When I finished my National Youth Service Corps, a friend called me that the Nigerian Navy form was out. I called a naval officer, who confirmed that the form was actually out. The friend collected N150,000 from me to help me get a slot in the navy.”
Tunde Olowokere, a secondary school leaver, who came from Ondo State, said one Abiodun collected N120,000 from him under the guise of assisting him to secure employment in the navy.
Another trainee, Bisola Olabire, 25, said, “I obtained a Nigerian Navy recruitment form at the Ojo Barracks. While I was waiting for the exam, I met a friend, Dayo, and I told him about the form. He asked if I had somebody to help me out and I said no. He said he also obtained the form. He said he knew one Godwin at Sagamu who could help us out. I told my parents and they agreed to pay the money.
“I paid Godwin N50,000 after which he gave me a form tagged, ‘slot form,’ to fill. A few months after, I learnt the list was out on the Internet. I checked, but my name was not there. When I called him, he told me to be patient.
“One Saturday, he called me that nine of us would go for the training the following Monday in Port Harcourt (River State). We converged on Sagamu and boarded a bus. On the way, he said the new training camp was in Ijanikin. On getting to the camp, things were not in order. I wept during my first night there. We were later told that we were recruited into Nigerian Merchant Navy and that it would be approved in two months’ time.”
Twenty-year-old Godswill Beshel, who said he was in a dilemma on arriving in the camp, stated that he decided to undergo the training because he was ashamed to return home and tell his family that he had been hoodwinked into joining the merchant navy.
“I live in Cross River State. I thought I had come for the Nigerian Navy training, but I discovered that it was a different thing entirely and the possibility of going back home was not an option for me. I paid N100,000. I arrived at the camp in November. We do have lectures and parades,” he said.
The Commander, Adewale Oluwaseun, however, said only N15,000 was collected from each of the trainees, insisting that they did not impersonate the Nigerian Navy.
He said, “We are working towards getting our outfit approved by the Federal Government. I was a sailor on board of a vessel before I joined merchant navy. We were only doing orientation in that camp.
“We didn’t sell forms. The money they paid was N15,000 each and it was for their feeding and welfare. All of us eat the food at the camp. After the three-month training, they will go back to their houses and we will call them later.”
While handing over the suspects to the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Lagos State Command, the Commander, Nigerian Navy Ship Beecroft, Commodore Maurice Eno, said, “At about 4.30pm on January 10, one Mr. Lukumon Bello paraded himself as a Master Warrant Officer when accosted by soldiers at Irekiti in Badagry. His arrest led to the discovery of the illegal training.”
The NSCDC Commandant, Tajudeen Balogun, said the command would ensure diligent prosecution of the suspects.