Owing to the recent incessant attacks on oil and gas installations by militants in the Niger Delta, President Muhammadu Buhari has said the federal government was currently formulating key strategies on how to tackle the crisis.
Buhari made this disclosure at the Nigerian Navy Diamond Jubilee Anniversary and its 2016 International Maritime Conference hosted by the Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) Vice Admiral Ibok Ette-Ibas, at Naval Dockyard in Lagos.
With its theme: ‘Enhancing Collaboration for Effective Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea,’ the conference was targeted toat tackle other numerous challenges in the Gulf of Guinea.
Present at the event were the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin; the Chief of Army Staff, Lieutenant General Tukur Buratai; the Chief of Air Staff, Air Marshal Sadiq Abubakar; the Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Director General Nigerian Maritime and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dakuku Peterside, and Commandant, National Defence College, Rear Admiral Ilesanmi Alade.
Others were the Deputy Governor of Lagos, Dr. Idiat Adebule; Flag Officer Commanding, Western Naval Command, Rear Admiral Ferguson Bobai; Air Officer Commanding, Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal Muhammadu Muhammed; General Officer Commanding, 81 Division, Major General Isidore Edet and Commander 9 Brigade, Brigadier General Bulama Biu.
The president, who was represented by the Minister of Defence, said the strategic plan, when fully developed, would bring a lasting solution to the crisis in the oil-rich region.
This is even as he called for intensified international collaboration to find a lasting solution to other maritime security challenges in the Gulf of Guinea like piracy.
Noting that the crisis in the Niger Delta was worrisome, he said by the time the plan is fully developed, the bombing of pipelines coupled with the destruction of oil and gas installations in the region would be a thing of the past.
Buhari said the challenges of maritime threats had become critical to the nation, as it had gone beyond the scope of capability of the nation to deal with, adding that the situation came with devastating impact on Nigeria’s operational environment in the GOG, where economic opportunities abound.
He said: “We are currently meeting to discuss the recent bombing of pipelines and destruction of oil and gas facilities in the region. Very soon, we will come up with a strategic plan on how to deal with the issue by the time we are through with the meeting.
“The Nigerian Navy at 60 has since inception applied only the most optimal policies and strategies to resolve maritime challenges in our maritime areas.
“They have remained constant in ensuring sea control and arrest of illegal bunkerers, smugglers, pipeline vandals and other miscreants in the fight against illegalities in the nation’s maritime domain and beyond.
“But the situation has gone beyond our capability to handle. It, therefore, calls for greater international collaboration between the navy and other international maritime stakeholders.
“This conference, however, is relevant to appraisal of multi national approaches to enhancing collaboration for effective maritime security in the GOG. I urge you to keep the flag flying and the government is solidly behind you.”
In his remarks, the CNS, Vice Admiral Ibas, said the conference would discuss on how find lasting solution to maritime challenges in the country and in African, particularly at the GOG.
Ibas said the maritime crimes and threats at the GOG call for serious concern as the affected economic life line of member states, adding that these maritime threats have become transnational and have gone beyond the capability of one nation to contain.
In his address, Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode, who was represented by his deputy, said the international waterways has always been the main corridor through which international commerce had nurtured relations among foreign countries.
He said the challenges of pirates which had accounted for about 30 per cent of attacks in African regional waters between 2003 and 2011 had become a recurrent issue affecting commercial shipping and trade activities of countries.
According to him, the economic benefits that abound in maritime trade for African nations and investors can only be fully realised with the safety and security of the offshore boundaries.
Also speaking, Akwa Ibom State Governor Emmanuel Udom, who commended the Nigerian Navy for their patriotic zeal and role in strengthening national security, also pledged to donate two gun boats to the navy to enhance sea patrol and keep the waters safe.
Meanwhile, an inter-agency committee on peace and stability in the Niger Delta brainstormed in Abuja yesterday in continuation of series of multi-sectoral consultations and meetings aimed at ending the resurgence of militant activities in the region.
Yesterday’s meeting was hosted by the Minister of Niger Delta Affairs, Mr. Uguru Usani Uguru, under the auspices of the Technical Committee on Peace/Stability in Niger Delta.
In attendance were the Minister of State for Niger Delta Affairs, Prof. Claudius Omoleye Daramola; very top officials of the Nigeria Police Force, Navy, Army, Ministries of Information and Culture, Defence, Petroleum Resources, and the Department of State Service (DSS).
Others are the Amnesty Office, Institute for Peace & Conflict Resolution, Nigeria Immigration Service, Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Naional Drug Law Enforcenent Agency (NDLEA), and the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS).
At the meeting, Uguru stated that the increased attacks on oil and gas installations in the region was indicative that the perpetrators were bent on not only frustrating the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari, but to torpedo the continued existence and survival of the people of the resource-rich Niger Delta.
Uguru regretted the scope of destruction being visited on the national assets in the wake of the renewed agitation by the militant group, Niger Delta Avengers, in the region.
Describing the current attacks on oil/gas facilities by suspected militants as sabotage, he urged the committee to be unified “in our opinion that those who do these things are saboteurs of the country.
“In certain countries, economic crimes are capital offences. And even if it is not so in Nigeria, in our own conscious mind, we should be able to perceive what is happening with intensity of that conviction that these people want not only to frustrate the administration but to hinder continued survival and existence of the people.
“If it said that the clean up of Ogoni land alone is going to take 25 years, it means a child is born today by the time they will finish that work the would have been a graduate and probably workiing.
“But what is strategically more important is what we will exchange within ourselves, because that will lead to operational action. So far, we have being carrying out activities to locate the people directly responsible,” he said.
On whether the Niger Delta Avengers has reached out to government with any demand, he said: “They have not reached out us to say what they want but we have been interacting with them. And most of the time, what we understand them to be wanting is what we can’t afford.
“Because we want something sustainable and that is why we are now making sure that whatever we do, is what is morally standard to sustain the peace. We don’t want to carry out any palliative action that cannot stand the taste of time,.
“You are aware that some months ago, we met with representatives of the various departments of interest in the region and department of security concerns. We had being waiting to get permanent nominees from the different agencies in order to be able to assign ourselves roles to play.
“ We have had this names complete a while ago but different intervening engagement had not allowed us to call you all together as quickly as we intended to. Essentially at wake of what is being observed now, we have not only been concerned about how we go about the activities but we want, to see that we draw up a framework assessment of our activities in the region to secure the region for peaceful operation of our economic activities,he added..
The reason for yesterday’s meeting, he said, “is that we are going ro get into the sensitive phase of the work that we need to do. The reason we have this interface between administrative agencies, intervention agencies and security agencies is because the work in the region entails much more than operational activities in the field.
“But there are other factors that are required if peace in the region must be achieved and sustained. I want to sound my own appreciation of the situation. I do not think that we will assume that after one, two, three activities, the situation is going to get down to normal.
“My perception of the situation is that, it is likely to continue to be what it is. Our activities will determine how it easy down or the intensity on which they will operate.
“The background of that presumption in my mind is that-what I seem to understand is that, there is no obvious, tangible, object or consideration of this agitation. I think from what we gathered, from informal interactions and some espionage activities we are trying to carry out.
.“Some people who think they are not gaining enough from the government would try to break up from the camps they have belonged to and then seek recognition by thee violence, so they also will establish a new camp, for which they could probably win pipeline protection contracts.
“There are several conspiracies, some other suggesting that some politicians who want some form of displacement are responsible also in some ways for what is happening. Others suggest that the contractors who maintain the pipelines, most of the times, go behind, when there is no such eventuality to create it so they can win another contract.
“But what I said to you is what I believe is known to all of you. But what is strategically more important is what we will exchange within ourselves, because that will lead to operational action.
“So far, we have been carrying out activities to locate the people directly responsible. But while segment of people in government are engaging in dialogue, others are doing other things to ensure that this situation does not repeat itself.
“We are also told that some people who are assigned to carry out the function of protecting their region are complicit in the activities that are going on. All these are things that will go down on investigation that professional agencies that are suitable and fit to give us the proper perspective, “Uguru stated.
Meanwhile, the Special Adviser to the President on Niger Delta and Coordinator, Brig-Gen Paul Boroh (rtd) is relocating to the region until normalcy.
He told THISDAY that he was going to remain there and continue consultations with the ex-militants until they unravel the brains behind the spate of attacks on oil/fas pipelines. Alex Enumah in Abuja
The trial of the former National Publicity Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party, (PDP), Olisa Metuh, over allegations of corruption and money laundering was yesterday stalled at the Federal High Court sitting in Abuja due to the inability of Metuh to appear in court.
At the resumption of trial yesterday, Metuh’s counsel, Onyechi Ikpeazu, told the trial judge, Justice Okon Abang, that his client’s health condition had deteriorated, warranting him to be placed on bed rest at the National Hospital, Abuja. The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission EFCC had in a seven-count charge accused Metuh of receiving the sum of N400million from the former National Security Adviser, Col. Sambo Dasuki (rtd) through his company, Destra Investment Limited.
Metuh and Destra Investments Limited are also being tried on charges of money laundering involving alleged cash transaction of $2million.
Justice Abang had on Monday adjourned till yesterday for the continuation of the testimony of the fifth defence witness (DW5), Mr. Richard Ihediwa.
Ikpeazu sought for an adjournment on the matter on the grounds that section 352(4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice (ACJA), 2015, in which the judge is allowed to proceed with a criminal trial without the defendant’s presence in court, had not arisen.
Ikpeazu then passed a medical report signed by a neurosurgeon consultant in the hospital, Dr. O.O Olaleye, to the court registrar, confirming that Metuh was in the hospital on bed rest.
However prosecution counsel, Slvanus Tahir, who was reluctant to oppose the application, drew the court’s attention to section 266(a) and (b) of the ACJA which makes it mandatory for a defendant to be present in court whenever his trial comes up.
After listening to the submissions of counsel, the trial judge noted that though the 1st defendant had a good reason to be absent from court, the medical report however was not helpful, as it failed to indicate a time frame for the bed rest.
He said the omission of the duration of the rest in the report had left doubt as to whether the report was issued in bad faith.
Abang however conceded to the request and adjourned to May 30 for continuation of the trial.