By; NIYI OGUNGBOLA, Abeokuta.
The Nigerian Navy has vowed to checkmate the rising wave of militant activities in some riverine communities in Lagos and Ogun States, which have led to the wanton killings and destruction of property.
The Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai, said this in Abeokuta when he paid a courtesy visit to Ogun State Governor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun in his office.
In company of the Commander of Nigerian Navy Secondary School, Abeokuta, Lieutenant Commander Ahmed Abdullahi, and some senior officers, Bobai said that the creeks were already being combed to make them crime-free.
NN recalled that suspected Niger Delta militants had recently engaged in series of violent attacks on some borderline communities in Lagos and Ogun, forcing hundreds of residents of the affected areas to flee their homes.
Speaking with reporters after his visit to the governor, Bobai disclosed the plan to establish a new Naval Base in Tongeji Island in Ipokia Local Government Area of the state to check pipeline vandalism, smuggling of contraband and other maritime-related illegalities.
According to him, the Navy in conjunction with operatives of Nigeria Customs Service (NCS), had made some arrests in connection with maritime criminality.
The Flag Officer explained that based on directive from the Presidency, the Navy was ready to assist the two state governments in subduing daredevil militants and eradicating their menace.
He said “As a matter of fact, you know that there is an operation ongoing called Operation Awatse. Awatse is a Hausa name to say scatter; so we hope that in a short while, the Operation Awatse would swing into intensive operations to ensure that all these places are cleaned up of militants.
“Essentially, from the maritime front, one of the greatest problems we have is in the right of way in the water front and creeks there. There are natural obstacles that will hinder us to move from point A to point B and the Chief of Naval Staff is very much concerned about that.
“Today, we have a team that is going round some of those creeks to see how we can open up the waterways to enable us move in to confront these issues that we are talking about.”
Bobai solicited the assistance of the Ogun State Government in putting in place necessary facilities for the proposed Naval unit at Tongeji Island.
He said, “On the 4th of April, I was at Tongeji Island in Ipokia Local Government at the instance of Chief of Naval Staff to see what kind of infrastructure we have on ground with a view to establishing a naval unit there.
“Interestingly, that island is just five minutes to Porto Novo but it is 50 minutes to Badagry (in Lagos State) and there is no connectivity on land, you will go there by water. So the people are cut off.
“Hopefully, in a short distance, we will establish a naval unit there to fight the numerous maritime illegalities that are being carried out in that stretch between Badagry and Benin Republic through the Tongeji Island axis.
“We have made some arrests since the beginning of this year ranging from people dealing with petroleum products that are gotten from pipeline vandalism, and smuggling of contraband and drugs we’ve all seized in conjunction with Customs.
“So, it is hoped that when the Naval Base is established there, we will act as a checkpoint where people must pass to go to Benin Republic and once our presence is established there, it’s like you virtually block them. We expect to see a decline in some of these illegal activities within that stretch” he added.
Earlier in his remarks, Governor Amosun pledged support for the Navy, saying his administration would provide needed facilities to equip the new Naval Base.
The governor said he had written six letters to the Presidency, demanding the establishment of the Naval Base in the state.
Navy vows to flush out militants from Lagos, Ogun communities …To establish new base in Tongeji Island
By; NIYI OGUNGBOLA, Abeokuta.