Ernest Chinwo in Port Harcourt
As most parts of the country face security challenges, the Minister of Defence, Mansur Dan-Ali, has called on Nigerians to renew their confidence in the Armed forces for the security of the nation.
This came as the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, said the navy was committed to facing the security challenges in the nationâ€™s maritime sector.
The duo spoke saturday at the Naval War College Nigeria, Ubima, Rivers State at the inaugural ceremony of Course 1/2017 of the college.
Dan-Ali noted that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved the establishment of three war colleges in the country with the aim of equipping officers of the armed forces with requisite knowledge for the defence of the country.
He also noted that with the support of the presidency, the Nigerian Navy had injected new platforms to its fleet and repaired existing equipment to strengthen its capacity to discharge its responsibilities.
â€œIt is important to stress that success in this environment requires much more than tactical competence: it requires judicious and decentralised employment of that competence at all levels; tactically, operationally, and strategically. And the key enabler of decentralised employment is knowledge. It is for the purpose of advancing this, â€˜knowledgeâ€™ that you have been gathered here,â€ he told the Course 1 participants.
He said the War College was programmed to emphasise intellectual development and academic excellence, and also tasked with â€œthe mission to develop senior naval leaders and equivalents from other services as operational level commanders with thorough appreciation of complex national security problems, who are prepared to make sound decisions in the application of maritime force as a policy option.â€
â€œI call on all Nigerians to continue to cooperate with the Armed Forces so that they will discharge their constitutional roles effectively,â€ he said.
In his address, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ette Ibas, said the navy was committed to securing the maritime sector of the nation.
He noted that the vast maritime environment of the country was a blessing to the nation. He however said it also posed security challenges which the nation must grapple with if it must secure itself and its people.
His words: â€œAs you are aware, Nigeriaâ€™s maritime environment is immensely blessed with natural resources. Global quest for energy security has also attracted significant interests and investments from several industrialised countries into the Nigerian economy. The country therefore, like most coastal states of the Gulf of Guinea, relies on this natural endowment for national development.
â€œAdditionally, the country is a major transport hub, contributing to about 50 per cent of the ECOWASâ€™ import and export activities. Thus, shipping and other maritime activities account for over 70 per cent of Nigeriaâ€™s foreign exchange earnings. There is also the important issue of the nation rising up to responsibilities of both its entrusted and assumed sub-regional leadership. The implication of all these is that Nigeriaâ€™s maritime environment is strategic to her national survival and prosperity of her citizens, and the sustenance of her pre-eminence in the comity of nations.
â€œIt is however regrettable that the status of the maritime expanse as the economic hub of the region has also brought about the unintended consequences of attracting criminals to the mix. These criminal activities, which include piracy/sea robbery, hijack/kidnapping for ransom, crude oil theft/illegal bunkering, unregulated, unreported and illegal fishing, trafficking in human, small arms and illicit drugs and sabotage of oil and gas infrastructure (OGI) present diverse real and potential threats around the nationâ€™s maritime space.
â€œIt must also be considered of grave implications that several security challenges on land are also fuelled by proliferation of small arms and light weapons, most of which are illegally imported or smuggled, as noted a while ago, through the sea and the adjoining creeks. Collectively, these threats pose serious economic and security challenges to the nation, the NN and other security agencies.â€
He said the navy had taken proactive measures to secure the nation. He explained: â€œAs a proactive measure towards addressing the threats, the naval command has continually reviewed the adopted operational concepts towards efficient resource utilisation and protection of maritime activities.
â€œFor instance, a dedicated anti-piracy operation, Operation Tsare Teku was activated in April 2016 arising from the undesirable upsurge in piracy noticed earlier in the year. Gladly, this initiative has substantially reduced the menace of piracy and sea robbery. Also the commencement of the Choke Point Management and Control concept, which h involves the induction of houseboats and gunboats at strategic locations in the Niger Delta area has resulted in remarkable containment of COT and activities of illegal oil refiners.
â€œOther operational interventions had continued to be made in structure and in deployment. Operation River Sweep was activated early in January 2017 to combat the menace of illegal refining activities in the in-land waters of Rivers and Delta States. The operation involves the deployment of NN patrol teams supported by aerial surveillance to locate and destroy illegal refineries. Since its activation, the operation has recorded great result in the sheer number of criminalities it checkmates, the impetus it brings to legitimate businesses and the strengthening of the stakeholders.â€