By Sylvester Idowu in Warri
Tough time now awaits militants and other criminals along the waterways in the Niger Delta region as the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok Ekwe Ibas Thursday evening launched a new strategy code named Operation Eagle Eye in Warri, Delta State.
The exercise, which is incorporated into the Chief of Naval Staff annual sea inspection, involved the deployment of nine capital ships, over 80 gunboats and 11 inshore patrol cars and five Navy helicopters, will cover Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom states and last for five days.
Flagging off the first of the two phases of “Exercise Eagle Eye”, Ibas said the operation would be conducted within the Eastern and Central commands area of responsibilities covering a coastline of 220 nautical mile extending seaward up to 80 nautical mile and sea area of 39,000 square nautical miles of the nation’s territorial waters.
Vice Admiral Ibas, who was represented by Chief of Training and Operations, Rear Admiral Adebayo Adejuwon Oshinowo, said the Nigerian Navy had to introduce new operation concept to address the emerging challenges in the nation’s waterways and water off-shore arising from proliferation of various militant groups and criminal elements taking advantage to engage in all forms of illicit activities including piracy and attacks on ships in the waterways.
He said with the challenges the Navy felt the need to continue to exercise own personnel, the ships as well as operational readiness to tackle any further emerging situations.
Vice Admiral Ibas also disclosed that the Navy was monitoring the capacity and capability of the militant’s expertise in diving deep into the sea to bust pipelines assuring that his personnel were working to tackle that also.
He however promised that Exercise Eagle Eye would not truncate the ongoing dialogue between the Federal Government and the Niger Delta stakeholders noting that it was meant not only to train own personnel but also tackle criminals taking advantage of the process to attack seafaring communities and national assets.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Mohammed Garba, who was appointed as the Tactical Commanding Officer and Commander of Task Group 16.3 in the conduct of the exercise, said operation Eagle Eye was CNS strategic directive for achieving a safe maritime environment.
“The exercise Eagle Eye is predicated on the Chief of Naval Staff strategic directive for achieving a safe maritime environment that will ensure promoting shipping activities as well as increase crude oil production and other economic activities”, he added.
Other top officers that witnessed the flag-off included the Commander, NNS Delta, Commodore Joseph Dwunze: Commander 61 NAF Detachment, Warri, Air Commodore Zakari Sani and Commander Sector One of the Joint Task Force (JTF) code-named Operation Delta Safe, Effurun, Colonel Alhassan Grema amongst others.