By Jude Okwe
The immediate past Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) of the Eastern Naval Command (FOC), Rear Admiral Joe Aikhomu, has revealed that the command is facing the challenges of small arms and ammunition, including potable ballistic life-jackets to effectively police the waterways in the Gulf of Guinea.
But the dearth of these arms and ammunition, which became noticeable in the last one year, according to the naval chief, was not enough to deter the navy from combating sea robbery, crude oil theft, pipeline vandalism and sea crime generally.
Aikhomu made these revelations yesterday, at the headquarters of the Eastern Naval Command in Calabar, Cross River State, when he handed over to his successor, Rear Admiral Harry Ngonadi.
‚ÄúThe major constraints facing the command include inadequate platforms and operational bases for the fleet, shortage of small arms and ammunition, potable ballistics life-jackets as well as irregular supply of products to operation bases, spare parts for ships; manpower shortage especially seaman junior officers and junior rates among others,‚Äù he said.
During his one year tenure at the command, the former FOC said the Nigerian Navy was able to contain, to a large extent, the activities of sea robbers and closed down illegal refineries
On assumption of office, the new FOC assured communities along the nation‚Äôs maritime boundary of adequate security against piracy adding that no stone will be left unturned in protecting Nigeria‚Äôs maritime environment.
Ngonadi said it was the responsibility of the navy to protect Nigerian citizens in coastal areas who are largely marine agriculturalists and traders as well as other businesses including the nation‚Äôs oil installations in such areas.
‚ÄúWe are here to do a job to the interest and benefit of mankind and indeed, in line with the transformation agenda of the President Goodluck Jonathan as well as the vision of the leadership of the Nigerian Navy.
‚ÄúThe command is the under belly of the nation‚Äôs economy. A lot has been entrusted on our shoulders and we must not buckle. We must perform the assignment with zeal to be at the top always,‚Äô‚Äô he said.
The naval chief admitted that though the task ahead was challenging, with the collaboration of officers and men of the force, and with the right attitude and frame of mind, the Navy would continue to excel in service for the benefit of the citizens and the country.
The eastern command covers a sea area of about 24, 000 square metres, stretching from latitude six degree 30 to longitude eight degrees 30 with a coast line of about 120 nautical miles along Cross River, Akwa Ibom and Rivers State up to the 200 nautical miles seaward limit of the Nigerian territory.
It is home to 12 crude oil terminals, over 60 flow stations and about 500 oil fields, one liquefied natural gas plant, two refineries and three major seaports as well as one oil and gas free zone, one export processing zone, two regional maritime awareness centres among others.