President Jonathan with the new Service Chiefs
By Senator Iroegbu
President Goodluck Jonathan has charged the new service chiefs to end piracy, oil theft and flush out criminals that have besieged the maritime sector within a short time to justify their appointments.
The new military chiefs had assumed duties Monday after change of guards were successfully carried out at the Defence, Naval and Air Force Headquarters apart from the Army headquarters which Service Chief, Lt-Gen Azuhuike Ihejirika retained his position.
They were also duly promoted and decorated to their new ranks by Jonathan including the new Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Admiral Ola Sa'ad Ibrahim, who was elevated from the rank of Vice Admiral, Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba promoted from the rank of Read Admiral and the Chief of Air Staff (CAS), Air Marshall Alex Badeh.
After taking the flag of office from the immediate past CDS, Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin (rtd), Ibrahim promised to be a team player, able to carry others along in dealing with the emerging security issues in the country.
He noted that the issue of National Security is a serious business to be left in the hands of a few and would therefore need collective input of all the service chiefs and military personal.
"Now the business of National Security is a serious business to be left to the hands of a few. No leader can rise above the collective intellect of the group," he said.
Also, the CDS while handing over to the new Naval Chief, declared war on oil theft, bunkering, and piracy, which he said is causing embarrassment to the Presidency.
Speaking at the handing over ceremony, the new CDS tasked his successor in office to rise up to the challenge of the criminalities in the sector as ordered by the President while reminding him that the task is their joint responsibility to restore the glory and integrity of the Navy.
He said: “Most of the current security challenges, especially in the maritime domain and you heard Mr President talking more about that, are enormous, they are not new to you, since you are coming from defence headquarters. I do not doubt that you are capable of surmounting them, I will therefore seize this opportunity to highlight a few issues regarding the current Nigerian Navy situation.
“In the course of Mr President handing over to us, he focused on the Navy, Navy is very strategic, I have said it in many places, it is under the Navy and under the providence of God that the prosperity of this country will grow."
He added: “Mr. President talked about oil theft. I am going to end my speech on that because it has been a major embarrassment; there is a lot of oil theft in our waters and partly due to the neglect of the Navy over several years.
"The President and the Commander in Chief is rejecting that very vigorously and if he cared to make mention specifically the Navy oil theft, then you begin to wonder a kind of responsibility the new Chief of Naval Staff has to shoulder.
“So this program has attracted a very high level of awareness both in Nigeria and in international community as a matter of fact because of the fact that maritime crime is attractive, even the little resources we have all other countries ask us to support even when we don’t have enough resources".
He continued: "I have spent major part of the last two years laundering our image. The only way we can serve our country better is by securing our maritime environment and Mr. President spoke at length on this, almost two paragraph (of his speech) please try to solve that problem and you can then rest.
“Mr. President is very concerned about the situation, and has directed us to stop it. He was disturbed, and his directive is like an order. It is an order to the present Chief of Naval Staff and I am there, two Navy officers addressing a major concern of the President and the Commander-In-Chief”.
"We are more concerned about the oil theft and piracy, which has caused a lot of embarrassment to Mr. President. If you can solve this problem, then our uniform can shine brighter and brighter because oil theft, pipeline vandalisation, piracy and sea robbery are all linked up and when this happen, it tarnishes the image of the Navy," he explained.
"We must therefore eradicate piracy, pipeline vandalisation, oil theft and sea robbery from our maritime boundaries," he stated.
Responding, Ezeoba said that the Nigerian Navy is still struggling with issues bordering on discipline.
He however charged the officers and men of the Navy must be ready to face emerging challenges, and "must either shape-in or shape-out".
"We have issues with discipline and we must address it with tenacity of action and sincerity of purpose. In addressing these issues, we must be fair, firm, committed and resolute to achieve our mandate," he emphasised.
The new Naval Chief assured the nation of the readiness of the Nigerian Navy to brace up to the challenges of oil theft, pipeline vandalisation, piracy, sea robbery and other ills.
He said: "President Goodluck Jonathan is particularly disturbed by the high incidence of oil theft on the nation's waters and tresses that the President had given the Navy authorities the marching orders to arrest the situation.
Earlier, the outgoing CAS, Air Marshall Mohammed Umar handed over to his successor, Badeh at a brief ceremony in Air Force Headquarters.
Assuming duties, the new CAS described his appointment as a challenge and a call to national duty which he had accepted with humility.
He pledged his unalloyed loyalty and that of the Air Force to the government and people of the country.
Badeh stated: "We will leave no stone unturned in discharging our constitutional responsibilities and providing the necessary support for government in its quest to transform the nation."
Umar who handed over the baton to the new Air Chief called on the entire officers and men to give the new Air Chief the necessary support to enable him succeed in his new assignment.