Port Harcourt — The Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Dele Ezeoba, has said officers and men of the armed forces were not involved in oil theft in the Niger Delta region.
He said the military should rather be commended for their efforts in checking illegal oil bunkering and theft, and criminality in the nation's waterways.
Ezeoba made the assertion while fielding questions from journalists at the Nigeria Navy Basic Training School (NNBTS), Onne, Rivers State, at the end of a joint military sea exercise code-named "Operation FARAUTA."
He admitted that there might be some bad eggs in the military that could be involved in some criminal acts but said it would be unfair to generalise that officers and men of the forces were involved in such acts.
He said: "That is arrant nonsense. I want to take it away from whoever has said that the military is involved in oil bunkering that it is not correct." But I must quickly add that in every given environment there are bag eggs.
"If one single individual or two out 1, 500 or 5000 for one reason decide to go the opposite direction, does not constitute the totally of the rest of the individual or the rest of them as bad eggs. So, we must understand the enormity of sacrifice that officer and men of the armed forces have had to make.
"Some have paid with their lives in the fight against illegalities in our waterways; particularly crude oil theft and illegal bunkering. Some have become widows; families have been rendered motherless and fatherless because of their resolve and commitment to fight these menace."
"So, I will take exception when such rubbish (military's involvement) is being talked about without it being substantiated."
He explained that a greater part of Nigeria's wealth was lying at sea and that it was only the Navy that had the capacity to protect such assets, which underscores why the security outfit should be supported and empowered.
"We need the support of all, not only government, but other stakeholders, including the media to do public advocacy for us so that people can understand and we can then move forward to eradicate the sea blindness that has become a serious concern for us as a people.
"The enormity of the wealth of this country, the peace and stability for sustainable economic growth and development lies in the sea and it is only the Nigerian Navy that has the capacity to protect such.
"So, we need to be encouraged, we need t be empowered and I can assure you, given the right environment we will deliver," he explained and warned those involved in illegal oil bunkering and other forms of criminality on the nation's waterways to desist from such acts of economic sabotage or be ready to face the law.
"They (oil thieves) have already seen the signal. We don't need to talk much. Our actions will determine what happens and we will deliver on Mr. President's mandate in ridding the waterways off all forms of criminality, by the grace of God," Ezeoba said.
The naval chief also said some inadequacies were observed during the one week fleet exercise in the area of manpower on-board the vessels and promised to correct them as soon as possible.