Emmanuel Addeh in Yenagoa and Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Several military commanders and base heads in the Niger Delta on Tuesday met in Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State capital, to review the new strategic direction of the new Operation Delta Safe (ODS), insisting that Nigeria’s indivisibility was non-negotiable.
Yesterday’s meeting, which lasted several hours at the Joint Task Force headquarters in Igbogene, was in apparent response to recent pronouncements by militant groups in the region that they had concluded plans to create an independent republic.
THISDAY also learnt that part of the agenda of the interactive session which drew sector heads from Bayelsa, Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Ondo States was to forge a common front against the violent agitators who have been destroying critical oil and gas infrastructure in the region.
The JTF Commander, Rear Admiral Joseph Okojie, who spoke to journalists on behalf of his colleagues maintained that every Nigerian has the right to move around anywhere in the country without fear of molestation.
While explaining the deployment of heavily armed security operatives to the region, Okojie noted that the military has the duty to maintain peace in the area, assuring all residents of the readiness of the military to quell any threat to security in the area.
“All I want to say is that the Federal Republic of Nigeria belongs to all of us. The armed forces can move anywhere at anytime. ODS covers the whole of Niger Delta maritime area.
“So, if you see heavy presence in a village or town, it’s just the routine patrol we are carrying out. It is just the presence, and we have the right to be present there. At least nobody has complained of molestation.
“It’s also about the information passed round recently about some faceless individuals creating certain republics for themselves. This will not be allowed to happen,” he said.
Okojie assured all other ethnic groups that were asked to vacate the Niger Delta by the Adaka Boro Avengers of their security.
“For that reason, we have to show everyone, especially the peace loving people of the Niger Delta and those who transverse the roads in the region, that ODS under the commandeer-in-chief and the chief of defence staff is doing everything.
“We are performing our normal duties, not listening to rumours, and we assure the public to go about their duties without fear,” he added.
The JTF commander explained that the conference was also to intimate the various sector heads of the new focus of the military operations in the area.
“The Adaka Boro Avengers had vowed to pronounce the Niger Delta a self-governing republic on August 1, but later aborted the plan, citing several calls from ex-president Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Edwin Clark, traditional rulers and activists as reasons for deferring the plan.
Meanwhile, Nigerian Navy in Warri, Delta State, yesterday said it did not lose any of its officer in any form of accident last week.
The Base Information Officer, Lieutenant N.Lamu, gave the clarification in an interview with THISDAY as reaction to last Sunday publication in which it was reported that the Navy lost an officer in an accident in the state.
THISDAY had exclusively reported that a Naval Officer attached to the Nigerian Navy Ship (NNS Delta) Warri lost his life last Thursday night due to the negligence of the authority of the base.
The officer was reported to have died at the base jetty at about 7 p.m. on arrival from a patrol which he led against some militants in the creeks of Warri South West Local Government Srea of the state.
The Base Information Officer who clarified that no such incident occurred at the base, took THISDAY on tour of the jetty where it was observed that there was no dangling rail that could have led to the death of any personnel.
“We are always careful with the way we carry out our assignment here. The welfare and safety of our officers are paramount and so no such incident occurred here. We take