From JULIANA TAIWO-OBALONYE, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari has again warned the Niger Delta militants to stop the destruction of oil installations in the region and embrace peace, saying that his administration might still resort to taking military action against them if dialogue fails.
He gave the warning yesterday at the passing out parade of the 63rd regular course cadets comprising the first set of female combatant cadets at the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), Kaduna State.
The cadets comprised 59 personnel for the Nigerian Army, 40 for the Nigerian Navy and 29 for the Nigerian Air Force.
Buhari who painted a gloomy picture of the devastating effect of militants’ attacks on the nation’s economy, reminded them that his administration has kept his campaign promises starting with the cleanup of Ogoniland, as part of efforts to end militancy and develop the region.
He also called on all Nigerians to give peace a chance and join hands with his administration to develop the nation.
Buhari said, “Today’s challenges, however, go beyond Boko Haram. We have seen the negative impacts of kidnapping, cattle rustling and renewed militancy in the Niger Delta on our economy.
“The repeated attacks in the Niger Delta have been impacting negatively on oil revenues. The scourge of illegal small arms and light weapons, and the drugs war among others, remain issues which we are tackling seriously.
“Recently, we flagged off the Clean-up of Ogoniland as part of the programmes to salvage the ravaged environment. We are convinced that undertaking such a monumental project will contribute to addressing the root causes of militancy in some parts of the Niger Delta region.
“However, for the avoidance of doubt let me state that other options are still open including decisive military action, if necessary, to deal with the criminal elements bent on sabotaging the country largely for their selfish and parochial interests.
“However, our priority still remains constructive engagement of the stakeholders for peace.”
The President said that the commitment of the troops had gone a long way in curtailing the activities of Boko Haram in the North-East.
Buhari who reiterated that terrorism and insurgency are new global phenomena, added that only concerted international cooperation will lead to their defeat.
According to him, Nigeria has strengthened its participation in the Multi-National Joint Task Force (MNJTF).
“We expect that other countries in the sub-region will continue to give the MNJTF and our efforts maximum cooperation. Some of our diplomatic shuttles to Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Benin have significantly contributed to defeating Boko Haram and other terrorist groups in the sub-region.”
Buhari commended the excellent parade by the cadets, saying it was a testimony to the high standard of training and discipline the Academy has set.
“I, therefore, commend the commandant, instructors and gentlemen officer cadets for this outstanding parade. Today’s Passing Out Parade has an added significance because, for the first time in 52 years, this Academy is graduating female cadets who will be commissioned as regular officers into the Armed Forces of Nigeria.”
He urged the cadets to remain patriotic and loyal to the Federal Government.
The President also commended the pioneer female Regular Combatant officers for their courage and resilience in the past five years, adding, “I advise the Services to put in place adequate institutional mechanisms to evaluate the deployment or otherwise of our female officers in active combat roles. But we must be careful to carry public opinion with us and respect cultural sensitivities.
“To the passing out cadets, I want to observe that you are graduating into the Armed Forces at a very auspicious time when the gains of several years of sacrifice by our troops are being consolidated.
“You are indeed moving into a path of honour, sacrifice and responsibility. You are also moving to the next level having been found worthy in learning and character to move from being Cadets to officers. “Endeavour to be patriotic and exhibit the highest level of discipline and loyalty to one Nigeria. Above all, you must strive to keep to the tenets of the profession by remaining apolitical. You are also required to exhibit the highest sense of integrity, patriotism and exemplary service to the nation and its people.
The President also presented awards to six cadets at the ceremony.