The Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Abayomi Olonishakin, has said that troops have been placed on high alert to combat any militant attack in the Niger Delta.
Olonishakin made the disclosure on Wednesday at the inauguration of 25 locally built gunboats donated to Nigerian Navy Ship, NNS Pathfinder, in Port Harcourt.
He said the military was currently assessing the situation in the Niger Delta with a view to maintaining law and order.
According to him, the nation cannot tolerate any criminality by individuals and groups, especially at a period it is faced with serious economic challenges.
“The Defence Headquarters is up and doing and we want to warn them (militants) that the military will not take it lightly in cases of disturbances.
“Any threat by them will be met with appropriate military actions.
“We have directed our troops to be on red alert as well as ensure that criminals and vandals who sabotage the national assets are brought to book,” he said.
Olonishakin expressed optimism that the 25 gunboats newly acquired by the Nigerian Navy would help in drastically reducing oil theft, sea piracy and other forms of illegalities in the nation’s maritime environment.
Also, the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice-Adm. Ibok-Ekwe Ibas, said the navy employed the services of local engineers to construct the gunboats to save cost and cut capital flight.
He said that President Muhammadu Buhari had approved local construction of additional 50 security patrol boats to be delivered in the coming months.
According to him, the gunboats which have reached advance stages of completion, will be fitted with anti-ballistic protection and latest technology.
“Delivery of the additional 50 gunboats will ensure that the nation’s backwaters are saturated with patrol boats for improved security of our maritime domain.
“The boats will enable us meet with stiff opposition sea robbery, crude oil theft and other illegalities within the creeks and waterways,” he said.
Ibas said that plans were on to acquire more patrol vessels for the navy to enable it to maintain constant presence at sea.
Responding, Gov. Nyesom Wike of Rivers, said that local manufacturing of military hardware would create job opportunities for the youth and improve the capacity of local ship manufacturers.
He said the state government would provide logistic support to ensure that the gunboats maintained 24 hours daily presence at creeks and waterways.
“The boats will be fully mobilised to ensure that oil theft, sea piracy and other forms of criminality is drastically reduced to help accelerate development in the Niger Delta,” he said.
Wike said the state government would continue to cooperate with the armed forces to promote law and order. (NAN)
In a related development, Nigeria’s military denies killing 10 people in an offensive against renewed militancy in the southern oil-rich Niger Delta area of Africa’s biggest petroleum producer. Thousands are fleeing the violence.
Militants say 10 “innocent civilians” were shot in the past two days as troops searched for a gang leader wanted for alleged gun-running and stormed his home.
Brig. Gen. Stevenson Olabanji told The Associated Press that troops came under attack and returned defensive fire. He said no one was killed.
There was no way to verify the accounts of the shootout in Bori, 50 kilometers (30 miles) southeast of the oil capital Port Harcourt.
Militants have renewed attacks on oil pipelines as the government winds down a six-year amnesty program that paid 30,000 to guard the installations they once attacked.