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The Nigerian military, yesterday, said while it was not averse to legitimate agitations by any section of the country, it would put down agitations with violent disposition.

Speaking during the commissioning of 20 new 400 horsepower gunboats procured by the Nigerian Navy at the Nigerian Navy Base, NNS Delta, Warri, Chief of Defense Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, lamented the continued threat posed to the nation’s maritime interests by the criminal elements in the region.

Responding specifically to threats by the Niger Delta Avengers (NDA) to resume attacks in the Niger Delta, the Chief of Defense Staff, General Abayomi Olonisakin, said the Nigerian armed forces would continue to strictly prosecute threats of violent agitations against the country.

“Recent purported declaration of intent to resume hostilities by the Niger Delta Avengers rather casts an unfortunate gloom on the wellbeing of the region and serves a sad commentary on the security environment. While the right to agitation is inalienable to any group, its association with violence is unconstitutional and will always be strictly prosecuted by the armed forces.

“In this regard, I note with satisfaction that in synergy with other arms of the armed forces of Nigeria, the Nigerian Navy has continued to maintain effective deterrence and appropriate operational posture. It has pursued this by generating adequate maritime domain awareness, maintaining the required reach and sustainability and conducting seamless and effective network operations across multiple nations in the surface, subsurface, air space and server space domain,” he said.

He however advanced reasons for heavy military presence on the region in recent years even as he condemned the new threat of violence by the Niger Delta Avengers, noting that violent agitation was unconstitutional and would not be allowed to go unchecked.

The military chief, who was in company with other senior members of the nation’s armed forces, including the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Ibok-Ete Ibas; the Flag Officer Commanding (FOC), Central Naval Command, Rear Admiral Abubakar Alhassan; the Commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Operation Delta Safe (OPDS), Rear Admiral Apochi Suleiman and the Commander of the NNS Delta, Commodore Ibrahim Dewu, commended the navy for living up to its task in the Niger Delta region.

“Today, our nation is challenged by multifaceted threats from both continental and maritime fronts with great manifestations. On the seawards aspect, the nation’s maritime security drivers have been marked with increasing complexities in recent years, covering both traditional and non-traditional threats, with continuing and increased challenges across the regional maritime security environment.

“Coming landwards, there have been continued militarisation of the Niger Delta region and proliferation of weapons among non-state groups. This unsavoury state of affairs has ominously ended up in a sharp increase in threat level and deepening of conditions inimical to security. The induced maritime threat has expanded in recent years and has developed in new ways and means. They pose a serious and continued danger, with great potential for asymmetric and hybrid warfare.

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“These factors have complicated the nation’s maritime security environment, increased tension in our areas of interest can adversely impact maritime security and prospects in those areas, with consequent effect on Nigerian Maritime interest,” he said.

On his part, Ibas said out of the 20 gunboats, 16 were locally sourced while the remaining four were bought from South Africa.

The event was witnessed by the Secretary to the Delta State Government, Hon Festus Ovie Agas, who represented the state governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa; the Olu of Warri, HRM, Ogiame Ikenwoli; the Orodje of Okpe Kingdom, HRM Major General Felix Mujakperuo (Rtd.); the Pere of Ogulagha Kingdom, HRM Joseph Timiyan; Pere of Ogbe-Ijoh Warri Kingdom, Couple Oromoni; the representative of the Pere of Gbaramatu Kingdom and spokesman of the Gbaramatu Traditional Council, High Chief Godspower Gbenekama, amongst others.

Meanwhile, the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson, and leader pf the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Clark, met yesterday in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital in continuation of efforts to halt the proposed resumption of hostilities by the Niger Delta Avengers.

At the meeting which focused on the state of security, especially the seeming breakdown of law and rising tensions, occasioned by the renewed threat, the two Niger Delta leaders were said to have expressed worry that if not handled properly, things might regenerate really fast.

Dickson, who spoke shortly after the meeting, according to a statement by his Special Adviser on Media Relations, Mr. Fidelis Soriwei, stressed that the deliberations focused on steps to be taken to establish contacts with the federal government on the one hand and the aggrieved youths on the other in order to prevent a major crisis.

The governor also used the occasion to condemn the disruption of the fourth quarter general meeting of the Pan Niger Delta Elders Forum (PANDEF) by security operatives in Port Harcourt on October 26, 2017.

He called for an investigation into the circumstances surrounding the disruption of the PENDEF’s meeting in Port Harcourt, noting that as free citizens, the Niger Delta in PANDEF like other organisations had the right as provided for in law to hold their meetings.

He also called on the agencies responsible for the disruption of the meeting to tender an apology to the elders, who were embarrassed by the unprovoked reaction from the agencies.

“Chief Edwin Clark and I just had a meeting on issues affecting the Niger Delta region. In specific terms, the meeting dwelt on the breakdown of law and order, general security and the escalating insecurity in the Niger Delta. We explored how we can step up contacts with the federal government on the one hand and the agitators on the other.

“We condemned the security measures taken to stop the meeting of PANDEF in Port Harcourt on October 26, 2017 and demand that the action of the security agencies should be investigated and apology tendered for what happened. We find the action of the security agencies unacceptable, because PANDEF like every other organisation has the right to meet as enshrined in the constitution,” Dickson said.

He added that the meeting also discussed efforts being made at repositioning and strengthening the umbrella Ijaw organisations especially the Ijaw National Congress (INC) and the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC).

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