By; BALA B. BITRUS, Minna
Sequel to the request by the Niger State Government for a Naval Base along it’s long stretch of waterways in parts of the state, to enhance security of lives and properties of citizens living along the long tributaries of the River Niger and the River Kaduna, the Nigerian Navy has expressed readiness to collaborate with the state government towards actualizing the project.
The high command at the Nigerian Navy who are said to be excited about establishing it’s presence in the state, Tuesday formally responded by taking the first major step for the planned Naval outpost.
Consequent upon this plan, the authorities at Nigerian Navy are set to work with the Niger state government to establish a Naval Base at Shagunu, a coastal border town in Borgu Local Government the state.
On Tuesday, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ebok-Ete Ibas dispatched a team of senior Naval Officer to Niger state for a high level talk with the state government on the modalities for the establishment of the Base.
Leader of the team and representative of the Naval Chief, Navy Commodore Olu A. Bankole told newsmen after a meeting held behind closed doors with governor Abubakar Sani Bello at the Government House, Minna, that the issue was on the top burner of the Naval high command.
He confirmed that the initiative to establish the Base was at the instance of governor Abubakar Sani Bello following an earlier meeting between the Minister of Defence, Brigadier General Monsur Dan-Ali and governor Sani Bello on the need to strengthen the security network of the state particularly along the coastal communities in the state.
The representative of the Naval Chief noted that the presence of a Naval Base in Shagunu would go a long way to improve the socio economic status of the state and of the area by improving the general security of Shagunu and it’s adjourning areas being a border town on the coastal lines with other neighbouring West African countries.
He spoke of the need to enhance the security of the area saying since Shagunu is a gateway to other West African countries, there was the need to put a good security presence there in line with international best practices.
Navy Commodore Olu A. Bankole said “Security Seawards would be provided as part of the necessary check in fighting transborder, piracy and such other crimes peculiar to border areas.
“We are here on the instruction of the Chief of Naval Staff to have a look at the place and to advise on how the Navy can start a Base at Shagunu in Borgu Local Government Council of the state” he said.
The Naval Officer summed up that both governor Sani Bello and the Chief of Naval Staff were keen on starting the Naval operational office at Shagunu as soon as all modalities were completed for the Base to be on the ground.
He said as soon as the project comes on stream, it would have other complimentary benefits to the immediate environment such a secondary school, health care delivery services which are aimed at impacting on the people of the area besides the provision of maritime security for the communities on the waterways.
It will be recalled that last year, a band of armed men had attacked the coastal communities at Epogi in Mokwa Local Government Area of the state and killed 22 people inside a mosque while they were observing their early morning prayers.
The armed bandits had arrived at the village through the waterway onboard a speed boat and escaped from the scene using the same waterway.
The attack sparked off outrage and indignation amongst the locals and the state government resulting in the call for a Naval Base along the long stretch of the tributaries of River Niger.
Governor Sani Bello had in company of the Mai Borgu, Alhaji Mohammed Haliru Dantoro met with the Minister of Defence, Brigradier General Monsur Dan-Ali to open discussion on the need to establish a Naval Base in the state.
The decision to establish a Naval Base was settled for Shagunu being a coastal border town area.