•Gov Obiano commissions naval outpost in Onitsha, promises support for security agencies
From Jeff Amaechi
The Nigerian Navy has commissioned an outpost at Oduekpe, in Ogbaru Local Government Area near Onitsha, Anambra State
in a bid to combat criminal activities on the River Niger.
Before the completion of the outpost, the Navy had been occupying a temporary office in Onitsha; but now it has an operational base of its own. And from there, it has vowed to oversee activities around Onitsha, Asaba and the neighbouring communities. It said its action was in an anticipation of an influx of people and upsurge in human activities mostly trading in and around the commercial city following the proposed dredging of River Niger from Onitsha up to Lokoja in Kogi State.
It was an event which attracted the presence of Anambra State governor, Chief Willie Obiano as well as other politicians, Naval officers, traditional rulers and traders/businessmen. Even officers of other sister security agencies were in attendance Some of them were the Commander, 302 Artillery Bridge Onitsha, Col. I.E Akpan; Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Sam Okaula; the Sector Commander, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Mr. Sunday Ajayi as well as the Commandant of Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC), Mr. John Ahwen among others.
Governor Willie Obiano while commissioning the administrative block of the outpost, promised to continue to partner security agencies in the fight against crime in the state.
He commended the Navy for combating the criminals who traffic and smuggle arms and ammunition in and out of the state through the River Niger, recalling that the Navy had in the past, arrested many criminals who indulged in the act.
The governor who commissioned many other projects including the naval Armoury, 33KVA transformer, 250 KVA power generating set, officers accommodation, ratings quarters, water treatment plant, also laid the foundation for officers’ mess complex.
The governor who disclosed that he had provided speed boats and eight floating ambulances and patrol vehicles to the Navy, promised to continued to assist the organisation in combating crime in the state.
He noted: “I’m impressed with what I saw today with regard to so many projects embarked upon by the Navy in the state. I want to thank the Commander for the effort in arresting criminals who traffic arms through the River Niger in and out of the state. I will continue to support the Navy in many ways to fight crime in the state.”
In his speech, the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas, said that the establishment of the outpost in Onitsha became necessary because of the foreseen emergence of new security challenges following the presence of Onitsha as a commercial hub.
He said that the initiative was a product of careful evaluation of possible security challenges in the area and the need to brace up against them.
Ibas recalled that the Federal government in 2009 had commenced the dredging of the River Niger from Lokoja to Onitsha/Asaba to make the river more navigable for commercial activities to thrive.
“Additionally, the proposed establishment of national infrastructure such as the Greenfield Oil Refinery at Itobe, the inland water ports in Lokoja and Onitsha and the anticipated increase in marine traffic between Warri and the Ajaokuta Steel Company were envisaged to be great stimulus to the commercial activities.
“In this context, the possibility of emergence of new security challenges was not far-fetch. This appreciation necessitated the establishment of naval presence in this area to curb the envisaged criminal activities and free the largely water-dominated environment for legitimate use,” he state.
“The outpost was established in 2010; however it has been operating from a temporary location – a rented accommodation which has been both vulnerable and limited in space. The urgent requirement to address such significant deficit and drawback demanded that the Navy should prioritise the development of the unit despite its acute finance constrain,” Ibas said.
Also in his remark, the Flag Officer, Central Naval Command M. S Garba, expressed happiness with the completion of the project and successful relocation of the outpost to the permanent administrative block of the command.
He promised to ensure that the purpose of establishing the outpost in the area would not be defeated. He said rather it would encourage and ginger the Navy to fight crime along the waterways in order to eliminate all the criminal elements operating around Onitsha, Asaba and their environs.