By Jonathan Ugbal
The long squabble between the Cross River State Government and the Nigerian Navy over lands in two choice locations in Calabar may have been settled on Thursday when the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Awwal Zubairu Gambo visited Governor Ben Ayade and disclosed that the Navy is set to establish an outpost at Ikang and a naval security station at Dayspring Island.
Mr. Ayade had kicked when the Navy demolished its former hospital located next to the Governor’s lodge, Peregrino House to construct the new Naval War College after he failed to provide land for them as earlier promised.
Also, the demolition of a part of the officer’s mess of the Eastern Naval Command besides the U.J Esuene stadium to build what is said to be a hotel did not go down well with him.
But, Thursday’s visit may have been a peace meeting as both operational bases will be located in the Bakassi Local Government Area of Cross River which shares maritime boundary with the Republican of Cameroon.
While Ikang, previously in Odukpani Local Government Area that was carved out to be the current Bakassi after the original peninsula was ceded to the Cameroon’s, Dayspring island has remained a fictional inhabited place with no actual location, created by politicians.
However, Vice Admiral Gambo explained that the move has become necessary “because we are aware of the security situation in the state- cultists, kidnappers and other criminal elements- and to that effect, it has been part of our strategic plan and I think it is expedient that speedily we establish outpost and security station in these locations so that we can improve our security architecture in the state and of course, secure our borders and around the Republic of Cameroon.”
Assuring the governor of the Navy’s commitment to the security of the state nay Nigeria, the Naval boss said “we have to keep our eyes open and to ensure that Cross River State and Nigeria at large is secured from that angle.
“We want to reassure you of the availability of the Nigerian Navy; we are at your service to ensure that Cross River State and her good people are safe and secured for economic prosperity and development
“I want to inform you, Your Excellency, of the ongoing general operations in the creeks around the state to ensure we rid it of all criminal elements; the cultists, the kidnappers and all that to make sure it is safe for maritime business to thrive since Cross River is a littoral state.
“In that regard, we are also collaborating with other agencies the Army, the Airforce and of course, the police and other security agencies in the state to ensure that the waterways are safe and secure for the prosperity of the good people of Cross River State”
Continuing, Vice Admiral Gambo who said he was on an operational and administrative visit to Cross River expressed optimism that the Naval War College being built in Calabar will be ready for commissioning next year.
Responding, Governor Ayade commended the Navy for its security efforts in Cross River so far, which according to him, have “kept us out of the way of harm particularly knowing the complex nature of Cross River’s location vis a vis maritime security challenges.
“Very recently NNS Victory had undertaken several operations and I want to thank NNS Victory for their efforts in clearing out those bad boys from the creeks. Indeed, that has helped.”
The governor thanked the Naval Chief for the proposed Naval operational bases at Ikang and Dayspring Island, describing the development as deft moves to secure people of the area from criminal elements.
He however, pleaded with the Navy to also establish a base around Esighi where the Bakassi Deep Seaport project is sited.
His words: “We will need a strong naval presence, we will need a naval patrol across the entire length and breadth of our maritime domain.”
He pledged to sign the Certificate of Occupancy for the ongoing construction of Naval facilities in Calabar as pleaded by Vice Admiral Gambo.
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