Navy Deepens Military Operations in N’Delta, Ignores Militants’ Demands

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Addeh in Yenagoa

The Nigerian Navy has ramped up its security operations in the Niger Delta, brushing aside demands for their withdrawal by recalcitrant militants attacking oil and gas infrastructure and pleas by leaders of the region under the Pan-Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF).
Despite resumption of hostilities by the militants and the presentation of a 16-point demand by PANDEF, led by Chief Edwin Clark, the military announced Monday that it was creating more ‘choke points’ in the waterways of the region, ostensibly to hamper the movement of the warlords around the creeks.
In military strategy, a choke point is a geographical feature on land such as a valley or a bridge or at sea such as a strait, which the enemy is forced to pass, sometimes, on a substantially narrower front, thereby greatly decreasing the opponent’s combat power to strike its target.
The Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, revealed yesterday in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, that the navy was also expanding its bases and units and creating mobile stations to fight militancy and other maritime crimes in the region.

Ibas, who spoke when he visited the Bayelsa state government house, accompanied by the Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Mohammed Garba, and other senior naval officers, said he was in the region to assess the quality of military infrastructure deployed in the Niger Delta.
During the meeting, the naval boss told Governor Seriake Dickson, represented by his Deputy, Rear Admiral John Jonah (rtd.), that the current security arrangement would greatly transform the way security operations were carried out in Nigeria’s Maritime space.
“We have expanded our bases and units now to create mobile stations which enable us to be closer to the people and to tackle maritime crimes. We are also in the process of creating additional choke points to cover flash points in the region,” he told his hosts.
Ibas added that the Navy has also put in place, infrastructure to support its operations in various bases and units, noting that military trainings were currently ongoing both locally and abroad to prepare the personnel to be able to man the various equipment now available to the navy.

He boasted that the presence of the Navy has changed the maritime security landscape of the state and indeed the Niger Delta area in fighting militancy and other crimes in the coastal areas of the oil-rich region.

“I want to assure you that the Nigerian Navy together with our sister security agencies will do all within our powers to ensure that we create an enabling environment that will allow for legitimate use of maritime space,” he said.

Ibas stated that the navy had become more proactive in the delivery of services, stressing that with the various exercises being conducted, “criminal elements in the region” would soon find a new vocation.

He expressed gratitude to the state government for the donation of a 100-hectare land and gunboats to the Nigerian Navy and promised to make good use of the donations.
Both the leadership of PANDEF and some militant groups in the Niger Delta have demanded a planned easing of the military operations in the region, alleging that the operations have led to harassment of innocent residents of the riverine areas.

In his comments, the governor posited that his government had always believed that what is acceptable in Bayelsa is zero tolerance for crime and criminality and that the government had always worked towards that principle.

He said: “For Bayelsa State to be secured, the waterways must be secured. That does not mean that we will leave the land. We know that people go to river to harvest for land use.
“But the area of harvest is where the contest is now and the national establishment that has the responsibility, resources and training to do that for the country is the Navy.

“So, the Nigerian Navy needs the encouragement from all of us to ensure that the riverside areas and maritime environment are safe.”

He urged the naval authorities to create more of the mobile stations in the state, saying that Bayelsa is “more riverine than Rivers State and more delta than Delta State.”
The governor appealed to the navy to carry the state along, especially in the distribution of its formations, equipment and infrastructure, to enhance the operational efficiency of naval personnel in the state.

He noted that the call had become more imperative in view of the increasing level of sophistication with which the criminal elements carry out their nefarious activities in the maritime environment of the country.

He thanked the navy for immortalising Late Rear Admiral Nelson Bossman Soroh by naming one of its formations as NNS Soroh, saying that the gesture would go a long way in motivating serving naval personnel to give their best in serving the nation.
“Let me also use this opportunity to publicly commend the Nigerian Navy for its efforts to immortalise one of our heroes, Rear Admiral Nelson Bossman Soroh, who gave his best, in serving our country.

“On the issue of mobile stations, Bayelsa State needs more of those stations than other areas, because it is more riverine than any other state. This is the centre of gravity, so we appeal for a special attention.

“I know it is not easy to have those mobile platforms. But, let’s make sure that, we continue to mount pressure on the management of the system” he said.