The Nigerian Navy said yesterday it is optimistic that dialogue and political intervention will address the militancy in the Niger Delta, otherwise,it is “more than ready to take the military option”.
Commodore Christian Ezekobe, its Director of Information, stated this when he featured at the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) Forum in Abuja.
“What has posed some level of challenge is the re-emergence of militancy in the Niger Delta – the blowing up of oil and gas infrastructure, which is crucial to the nation’s survival
“This we are grappling with right now.
“Over the news you would have heard of various levels of arrest being made and handover of suspects to DSS also being made and so on.
“But we are praying for a political solution a way of dialogue and political intervention
“However, where that fails, we are more than ready to take the military option”.
He said that between June 2015 and Dec. 2015, the rate of maritime-related crimes at the sea such as robbery, kidnapping and piracy dropped sharply.
Ezekobe, however, said a surge in the rate of such crimes was recorded in Feb. 2016 and continued up to April, when the Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas initiated Operation ‘Tsare Teku’.
“Since April, when ‘Operation Tsare Teku’ was initiated, we have had only two cases (of maritime-related crimes).
“When it was initiated, the operation was to last 90 days”.
He said although the operation ended two weeks ago, the second phase was recently inaugurated by the chief of naval staff in Port Harcourt.
Ezekobe noted that before Tsare Teku was initiated, 47 attacks by pirates, were recorded.
He said since then, the Navy had clamped down on illegal bunkerers and crude oil thieves, who were moving stolen products from the hinterland to the sea.
Ezekobe said the Navy had acquired boats from an indigenous firm for use to patrol the creeks, rivers and rives in the region.
“So, overtime, we are going to see that our partnership with Epenal leads to the mass production of patrol boats within the creeks and rivers of the Niger Delta”, he said.
He, therefore, urged all relevant government agencies and other stakeholders to join the crusade against piracy in the country.
“But the solution to that problem is land-based and like I said, all the agencies of government need to intensify their efforts so that we can all solve the problem”, he said.
He disclosed that ‘Operation Awatse’ had put in place to check pipeline vandalism and other crimes.
“The operation has addressed this issue and largely eliminated pipeline vandalism – at least in the Lagos lagoon area”.
According to him, the re-emergence of militancy in the Niger Delta has encouraged some criminal elements to infuse themselves into the local criminal groups in the area to heighten the spate of insecurity and sabotage to oil and gas infrastructure.