The Governor of Bayelsa State, Douye Diri, has criticised the Federal Government’s maritime protection policy of engaging non-state actors to secure the maritime environment.
He called on the Federal Government to review the security strategy, saying it was a policy decision the government would later regret to have adopted in its effort to secure economic assets in the nation’s territorial domain.
Diri stated this during a courtesy visit to him by the Chief of the Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, at Government House in Yenagoa, on Monday.
The PUNCH reports that the Nigerian Navy authorities had engaged in a frequent war of words with the management of Tantita Security Services Limited, a private security outfit belonging to a former militant leader in the Niger Delta, Mr Government Ekpemupolo, also known as Tompolo, over security operations around the country’s oil assets since the Federal Government awarded a multi-billion naira pipeline surveillance contract to the firm.
Diri expressed concerns that the continued use of such unconventional security agents might cause greater security challenges shortly, and called for the strengthening of the Nigerian Navy to perform its constitutional responsibility.
The governor, who was represented by his deputy, Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo, contended that private individuals and groups should not be allowed to execute oil pipeline surveillance and protection contracts independent of the supervision of conventional security agencies.
He pointed out in a statement issued by the deputy governor’s media aide, Mr Doubara Atasi, that safeguarding the nation’s territorial waters was the exclusive preserve of the Navy and should be supported in every way possible to enable it to effectively secure oil and other critical national assets in coastal communities.
He noted that “already, there had been reported cases of violation of human rights and security breaches by surveillance contractors in local communities around the state.”
Diri said, “The cry of the Bayelsa State Government is that non-state actors are not the best to protect our oil assets. In the name of oil pipeline protection contracts, most of them violate the rights of our people in our localities.
“Let us not do things that we will regret as a country tomorrow. What the Federal Government is doing right now is like cutting the nose to spice the face.
“You don’t need to cut off your head because you have rotten teeth. You simply look for a toothbrush. You will be surprised that we will get to a point where some of these non-state actors will start to challenge us.
“I will suggest that the Nigerian Navy should be allowed to play that role to protect our critical oil assets. The Federal Government should therefore rejig or reinvent its security strategy to securing these assets.”
However, he commended officers and men of the Nigerian Navy serving in Bayelsa for demonstrating professionalism in discharging their official duties, which he said had helped the state to remain one of the most peaceful states in the country.
While calling on the Navy to sustain the tempo, Diri suggested to the Chief of Naval Staff to give official recognition and rewards to the officers for their professional efficiency so far.
Earlier in his remarks, the Chief of Naval Staff, Ogalla, said the Nigerian Navy could not do without Bayelsa State given the state’s strategic location and the critical oil and gas facilities it is hosting in the Niger Delta.
Ogalla, who described the recent electoral victory of the governor and his deputy as a true victory for the people of Bayelsa, appealed to the government and people of the state to sustain their goodwill towards the Navy for better services.
The naval boss particularly called on oil-bearing communities to see the Navy as a friend and to show cooperation in the provision of credible information to curb criminality in the state.
He said, “Bayelsa and Nigerians are partners because Bayelsa is in the core of the Niger Delta. Bayelsa holds a lot of resources in oil and gas, and the protection of these assets is a key role of the Navy. The Navy must create an enabling environment for the oil companies to produce their maximum output, and there has been significant improvement so far in the last six months.
“This is possible with the cooperation of the Bayelsa State Government and the people; the Bayelsa State Government has also provided resources to the Navy. So we have a cordial relationship with the oil-producing communities, and we need more cooperation in intelligence and information to curb criminality around the facilities.”
The Chief of Naval Staff was accompanied on the visit by several top-ranking naval officers, including the Flag Officer Commanding, Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral S.J, Bura, and the Commander of NNS Soroh, Commodore A.O. Ojebode.