• To partner Operation Delta Safe to curb militancy

Chiemelie Ezeobi

The joint taskforce (JTF) comprising the Nigeria Navy, Air Force and Army, thursday launched Operation Jagunlabi, a show of force, on the Lagos backwaters to combat the increasing menace of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.

The exercise, which is an offshoot of the ongoing Operation AWATSE (an Hausa word for scatter), was kicked off to further solidify the gains of the JTF in battling vandalism and crude oil theft in Lagos creeks and backwaters.

The exercise, which was kicked off by the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Slyvanus Abbah, at the naval outpost in Majidun area of Ikorodu, saw the JTF patrol both the waters and the land around that area.

Abbah was joined by the Air Officer Commanding, Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal Ibrahim Yahaya; the General Officer Commanding, Major General Peter Dauke and the Commander, NNS Beecroft, Rear Admiral Maurice Eno.
The maritime operation kicked off from Majidun creek and saw the apenal gunboats patrol to Ebute waterside, Ibeshe ferry jetty and moved to Oworonsoki jetty before heading back to the base.

For the patrol route for the show of force, the ground forces also took off from Majidun and stormed the Ikorodu garage roundabout, Ibeshe junction, Ibeshe Ilaje, Imota, Ishawo and rendezvoused back at the naval outpost.

Not ruling out aerial bombardment by the AirForce if need be, the FOC said the joint patrol means the three arms of services will pull resources and manpower together to tackle the menace of pipeline vandalism and crude oil theft.
Harping on the importance of intelligence gathering, Abbah who addressed the troops before the exercise began said they are to mix up with civilians in order to get them to loosen up.

He said, “Operation AWATSE has been an on- going operation and if you are in Lagos I think this is the most peaceful festive period you have ever had in Lagos.

“We have been working tirelessly before now. Before now, you know the criminals have been carrying out their nefarious act at the high sea; which is sea robbery.”

Abbah also said the components of Operation Awatse will partner Operation Delta Safe in the Niger Delta in order to tackle the issues of the influx of vandals and militants to Lagos waters from neighboring creeks.

The FOC said the partnership with Operation Delta Safe will see the military raid the creeks and backwaters of the Niger Delta region to arrest the rampaging militants.

He said, “Although Lagos by itself is a peaceful place but the criminals come from elsewhere. For instance, the last attack that happened on Lagos waters, we have arrested so many of them and all of them are not from Lagos.
“The five of them that are in our custody are not from Lagos but have their accomplice in Lagos who gives them information which we are working on to rid of all those things.

“Lagos is the hub of all activities. Anybody you kidnap in Lagos, you know that ransom can be handsomely paid so they plan their operation to operate in Lagos. However, we are not resting on our oars to tackle this.
“This period you know nobody came around to kidnap this period and we have to commend the soldiers because they are working very hard to ensure everything is fine peacefully.”

On the operation he said, “This is an ongoing and continuous exercise. Our presence here today is just to meet and interact with the soldiers. We want them to share their problems and we will address them.

“Before now you know Majidun is a no- go- area but as you can see everybody is feeling happy and operating freely and that is why we want to make all those non-penetrable areas to be safe now for everyone to carry out their businesses.

“There are certain things we don’t need to tell you because if we tell you our strategies, definitely the enemies would re-strategise and strike.

“This is a military exercise and the essence of this is to make sure we operate peacefully. So Operation Jagunlabi is a show of force to tell those boys (the militants) wherever they are, we are here for them.

“This is a joint operation and you cannot do it alone, so that is why we need air support from the airforce.
“Therefore, it’s a joint operation between the army, navy and AirForce and even elements of the police, Department of State Security and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.”