FG Planning Regional Force to End Niger Delta Militancy

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 Navy equips ships with advanced radars, destroys 118 illegal refineries, makes arrests

Senator Iroegbu in Abuja

The federal government is building regional and global security alliance against the resurgent Niger Delta militants in the form of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) countries-led  Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) against Boko Haram in the North-east.

This was disclosed yesterday by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, during the media briefing at naval headquarters, Abuja,  to mark the Nigerian Navy (NN) Diamond Jubilee Celebration

Ibas who was represented by the Chief of Policy and Plans, Rear Admiral  Jacob Ajani, said tackling the ongoing bombing of  oil facilities and pipelines in the Niger Delta, requires a holistic approach and combined force from all the security and intelligence agencies.

He said, President Muhammadu Buhari is therefore giving political backing to the existing structure within the gulf of guinea for the maritime security of the region.

He said: “The bombing of pipe lines, some are onshore as we know. So the holistic approach to solving these problem involves Nigeria Navy, but we are also co-operating with sister services and security agencies, towards addressing this problem.

“What you cannot take away from the Nigeria navy is that the issue of piracy at sea, since we mounted this operation has declined tremendously and that gives credence to the fact that ‘Operation Tsare Toku’, so far has been effective and we are still reinvigorating our activities in that area and I am sure soon the story we would hear good news.”

“Concerning the pronouncement by the president: before now, I talked about many cooperation initiatives which exist among  Nigeria and navies of Gulf of Guinea, one of which was what resulted in the release of the hijacked vessel.

“There is existing cooperation among our navies, what the president is saying is to give effect and political backing to what already exist, and probable to further convince the public that, as it is done in the North-east, even in the maritime frontiers we are co-operating with our neighbours because as you are aware, security is the concern of everybody more so at sea which does not have well defined boundaries as on land,” he remarked.

Speaking further, Ibas clarified that the ongoing review of Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), which affected the deal between the agency and the Global West Vessels Specialists Limited, allegedly belonging to former Niger-Delta war-lord, Tompolo, has nothing to do with the recent upsurge in criminal activities in the national waters.

He noted that there is “no contract between Nigerian navy and NIMASA, as you know, we are both agencies of government, and what we have is an MOU, which is a set of guide lines to assist in how we cooperate to achieve the same goal to a safer and more virile maritime domain where prosperity is enhanced for our nation and its citizens.”

“On the issue of rising criminal activities, it has nothing to do with the MOU not being reviewed. We are all witnesses to other social activities, which have culminated the challenges we are witnessing.

“Also, intelligence available to us, which we would not be able to divulge publicly especially at this time since we are still mounting operations, attest to the fact that there are  other far reaching reasons behind what we are witnessing.”

The naval chief said the navy is able to carry out surveillance of Nigeria’s maritime domain using the Regional Maritime Awareness Capability (RMAC) facility.

According to him, the RMAC facilities are fitted with advanced radar and integrated video cameras. This facility, he said,  wascomplemented by aerial surveillance routinely carried out by navy helicopters from Naval Air Base Ojo and the NAF ATR 42 based  at 81 Air Maritime Group in Benin.

As a result of effective surveillance and enforcement, Ibas said the NN had from January 2016 till date, in collaboration with the Joint Task Force Operation Pulo Shield and other security agencies, destroyed 118 illegal refineries and 16 barges respectively.

“Furthermore,  seven wooden Cotonou boats were arrested and 80 others destroyed. Also, 51 speed boats and 368 suspects were arrested in the same period. NN personnel also impounded 42 outboard engines, 1025 drums and 2,339 jerry cans. Additionally, 12 tankers, 27 vehicles, 347 Geepee tanks, 63 pumping machines, 13 generators and 56 surface tanks were confiscated by navy personnel. Other successes included the recovery of 36 small arms, 120 storage tanks, 17 vessels, 12 welding machines and 16 hoses,” he stated.

Ibas noted that on assumption of office, he placed a high premium on operational availability of ships, training and motivation of personnel.

To this end, he expressed belief that enhancement of navy’s indigenous shipbuilding capacity is critical to meeting its requirements.

This, he said,  informed its bold foray into the domestic construction of Seaward Defence Boats (SDB) with one of these boats being inaugurated in 2012 and the second which is nearing completion would soon be inaugurated by President Buhari.

“Notwithstanding,  I am glad to inform you that as part of the activities of the NN Diamond Jubilee, one Tug boat which was constructed locally would be inaugurate as well as 50 Epenal boats would on 1 June 2016,” he disclosed.

The CNS recalled that 30 Epenal boats were initially launched in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, which he said: “attests to the determination of the federal government to further promote  self-reliance in the local production of military hardware and equipment.”