James Sowole in Abeokuta
Ogun State Governor, Dapo Abiodun, yesterday said that Tongeji Island belongs to Nigeria as the Republic of Benin is not contesting the ownership of the oil-rich enclave.
Abiodun disclosed this when he received the Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command of the Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Mustapha Bala Hassan, who paid him a courtesy call in his office at Oke-Mosan, Abeokuta.
According to the governor, the island and its people have been part and parcel of Ogun State and have no connection with any other country.
He said: “Tongeji Island is an area that has been under our radar. Sadly, I have not been able to visit. I have slated to visit several times. The former Chief of Naval Staff at a point in time wanted us to go with the former Flag Officer Commanding, but something happened that day, and we could not go.
“I raised the matter with the President of Benin Republic the two times I met him to let him know that Tongeji Island is a no-go area for them and he accepted that, contrary to what people are speculating. They are not contesting the island with us.
“I agree that we mark that area with our presence by providing services for the people. The Jetty that you mentioned, I will tell our Ministry of Works team to go there and take a look so that we can put a cost implication to that. You mentioned the issues of power, water supply, and Primary Healthcare Centre. Those ones, we can immediately swing into action when we go there.
“If we are claiming that it is our territory, they must see us providing some services for our people and this has been brought to the fore a few times that our people there are complaining that we are not looking after them. We will immediately begin to provide them those services.”
Abiodun said Ogun Waterside due to its proximity to the Delta, had security issues in the past when people from the Niger Delta made incursions into the area and carried out criminal activities, noting that it was imperative to have Naval presence as the area is where the state’s seaport would be sited.
He said his administration’s efforts at providing security to the people living in that axis led to the procurement of gun boats for the police, maintaining that the presence of men of the Nigeria Navy would be highly welcome as towns in the area could only be accessible by water.
“We have Ogun State Port on the drawing board in the Olokola area, and that is basically a Navy responsibility. We will be making the announcement very soon because it has been in the pipeline for so many years. For one reason or the other, it didn’t happen then, but it is going to happen.
“A lot is going to happen along that corridor that requires heavy Navy presence. The federal government is reactivating a multi-billion dollar initiative which is going to be big responsibility on the part of the Navy because it is going to sit on the territorial waters around Ogun Waterside,” the governor added.
He said his administration is working assiduously towards making the State an oil-producing State, just as he assured the Nigerian Navy that a committee would be set up to work with the force in identifying a location where an administrative facility would be made available for their use.
Speaking earlier, Rear Admiral Mustapha Hassan, who is the 44th Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, lauded the State for its conducive business environment which has made it the industrial hub of the nation and emphasized the need for the state to work towards becoming an oil producing State through the Tongeji Island.
He said the force had spread its operations to Tongeji to safeguard not only the lives of Nigerians living in the Island, but to protect the territorial integrity of Nigeria and all its assets, appealing to the governor to provide jetties for seamless operations there.
Admiral Hassan also pleaded with the state government to provide the inhabitants of the Island with health facility, water supply and electricity to make them have a sense of belonging, suggesting also that government could turn the Island to tourism centre because of its potential.