By Philip Nwosu, Lagos, Judex Okoro, Calabar, and Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
The Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Eastern Naval Command, Nigerian Navy, Rear Admiral Victor Adedipe, has warned criminals to keep off Nigerian waters in 2018. The FOC, who handed down the warning at the ‘ceremonial sunset’ held in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, to mark the end of the year, said the command had concluded arrangements to step up its operations on various waterways to curb the activities of vandals.
Similarly, the Commander of the Joint Military Task Force, code-named Operation Delta Safe, Rear Admiral Apochi Ogabu Suleiman, has declared that the success recorded by various military operations in 2017 would be sustained in 2018 to make the Niger Delta region a safe place.
According to him, the creeks and waterways of the Niger Delta were safer after the various security operation by the Nigerian Navy that have curtailed the activities of criminals and led to increased crude oil production and sale, estimated at 2.5 million barrels per day.
Adedipe disclosed that “the command made a number of arrests in 2017 and some criminals have been prosecuted. Our prospect is to ensure that we continue to strive within the context of our resources to ensure that we maintain credible presence and stamp out criminality in the waterways, with a view to ensuring that the waterways remain very safe.”
In his keynote remarks, retired Air Force officer, AVM Eko Osim, commended the Navy for maintaining the practice and keeping the heritage of marking the ceremonial sunset.
He advocated for continuous training of naval personnel in the country, saying that it was the only way to contain the rising cases of criminality in the country.
Suleiman, however, said the Nigerian Navy and other security components deployed to the region need more support from the people of the Niger Delta.
He explained that, while the Navy has made the waterways safe for the Niger Delta people through its numerous operations, military operations would be sustained to ensure criminals do not regroup to destabilise the Niger Delta region.
“Due to the commitment of the Nigerian Navy, 2.5 million barrels are produced and sold daily. I commend the efforts of the NNS in fighting against illegality, in the Niger Delta Region,” he said.
Suleiman assured the people of the region that the Niger Delta was safe and that there was no illegality in the maritime domain.
The Air Officer Commanding, Nigerian Air Force Logistics Command, Air Vice Marshal Ibrahim Yahaya, also at the weekend, remarked that the need for the federal government and Nigerians to support the Nigerian Navy in its fight against crude oil theft and piracy at sea must be emphasized.
Yahaya maintained that, given the country’s high dependence on oil revenue and the Navy’s role as a major contributor to the economic mainstay of Nigeria, it would be worthwhile to encourage the Navy to continue to fight illegality at sea.
He spoke at the 2017 ceremonial sunset, organised by the Naval Training Command, stressing that in, supporting the Nigerian Navy to fight illegality at sea, Nigerians are ensuring that the country’s economic wellbeing is preserved.
He commended the efforts of the Navy in ensuring the reduction of illegal bunkering, oil theft as well as piracy and smuggling within the country’s maritime domain.
Yahaya said that the commitment of the Navy to internal security duties in the hinterland and the adjoining waterways have helped to minimise the rate of criminality in several areas within the the areas of responsibility.
While commending the efforts of the personnel of the Nigerian Army, Navy and Air Force in working together to achieve a common goal, the AOC said that the cooperation between the Armed Forces personnel and other paramilitary agencies had been quite impressive
He urged junior officers and ratings to be above board and not do anything that would tarnish the image of the military, adding that the military must also ensure that they protect civilians and the people of Lagos State. He noted that the location of the military in Lagos Area is not by accident.
Earlier, the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Logistics Command, Rear Admiral Obi Ofodile, explained the origin of ceremonial sunset. He informed that the military ceremony came into being following the 1797 mutinies in the British Fleet at Spithead, one Admiral Lord Vincent of the Royal Navy established the practice of raising and lowering the colour.
He said that the sunset is a combination of three ceremonies, the ancient ceremony of the British Retreat, Tattoo and lowering of the National Flag.
Admiral Ofodile said that the ceremony is an important event as it marks the end of all the events in the year and helps to raise the awareness and understanding of one of the age-long traditions in the navies worldwide.