This Day (Lagos)

Nigeria: Navy - Why Bakassi Buffer Zone Is Porous

To effectively police the country's waterways, the Nigerian Navy is set to operationalise its services by ensuring that ships, boats and helicopters are placed on red alert for any eventuality, Chief of Naval Staff, Rear Admiral Dele Joseph Ezeoba, has said.

Ezeoba, who fielded questions with journalists in Calabar, the Cross River State capital, shortly after inspecting military formations at the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command yesterday, said with military ships of ultra-modern brand and helicopters in readiness for response to any attack, Nigeria would be in a better position to fight sea piracy, smuggling, oil bunkering and all sea activities bordering on economic sabotage in the Niger Delta and other coastal communities of the country.

Both the ships and helicopters, he said, would be battle ready at all times as its is government's desire to rid the water ways of undesirable elements as the country was losing much to oil theft, pipelines vandalism, destruction of oil installations by vandals and general insecurity in the nation's gold basin.

Ezeoba said his leadership of the Nigerian Navy was out to ensure that the service was combat ready at all times including being pro-active to nip in the bud plans by criminals adding that the navy will continue to provide the country the much needed security so that business activities thrive hitch-free in the coastal regions.

According to him, the helicopters would help to monitor development at the buffer zone in Bakassi Peninsula that was supposed to be patrolled jointly by Nigerian and Cameroonian forces but that has not been actualised owing to the partial or non-implementation of the Green Tree Agreement as it concerns maritime boundary between the two countries.

This, he said, has made the buffer zone porous and thus a fertile ground for sea criminals to easily carry out their illegal activities to the detriment of countries in the Gulf of Guinea and that it was up to those countries to agree on how to check insecurity at the restricted zone.

He said he was in Calabar to identify the problems on ground and operational capacity of the navy and that through such on the spot assessment of naval facilities, gaps will be identified and how to fill them through the development of overall capability of the navy.

On the Nigerian Navy Referral Hospital in Calabar, the Chief of Naval Staff said he wanted to see to the completion of work on the hospital which was abandoned over 15 years ago but for paucity of funds, the project was being funded piecemeal and solicited the cooperation of all stakeholders for the completion of the project.

"We want to see how we can complete this hospital within the next 12 months. This project has been abandoned for a long time. It is not a good idea that this project remains abandoned. The more it remains unattended to, the more its cost of completion increases," he said.

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