Governor Seriake Dickson of Bayelsa state has said that oil theft is a threat to Nigeria‚Äôs security and blamed it for the proliferation of arms in the Niger Delta.
Dickson spoke in Yenagoa, the state capital when he received the new Flag Officer Commanding (FOC) Central Naval Command, Rear Adm. Sidi-Ali Usman.
The governor expressed concern about the rising incidents and the sophistication of illegal bunkering, sea piracy and pipeline vandalism and condemned the negative impact of the crimes on the nation‚Äôs economy.
Dickson said the criminals sustained their operations over the years through the proceeds from illegal bunkering activities.
‚ÄùWhat is going on is more of a threat to national security than even the loss of revenue that everybody is shouting about.
‚ÄùLet me tell you that all the violence, brigandage and criminality that we experience in the Niger Delta states, particularly Bayelsa where I know more, have their roots in the activities in the creeks.
‚ÄùIt is from there they have easy funds to recruit followers; it is from these activities of crude oil theft and illegal refining that people are able to sustain such large numbers of youths and put them into various cult groups.
‚ÄùWhat is going on has a direct effect on the proliferation of small and light weapons because they need an army of youths to protect their territories, to be able to withstand the onslaught of legitimate security personnel,‚Äù he said.
The governor warned cult members who rejected government‚Äôs plea to have a change of heart, as his administration would not hesitate to bring them to justice.
‚ÄùFor those who have defied the Cultism Proscription law, in spite of the olive branch we have put forward and arrangement for their renunciation and eventual integration, but still want to go ahead with cult activities, I am sounding a clear note of warning that this government will not succumb to blackmail or propaganda.
‚ÄùThis government will work with security agencies in this state to ensure that those who violate the laws of this state and country will be brought to book,‚Äù he said.
He called for maximum cooperation from the security operatives, especially the Nigerian Navy, to achieve the administration‚Äôs policy of zero tolerance for violence and criminality.
Dickson described the establishment of the Central Naval Command in the state as strategic, considering its maritime nature.
He said the navy had a crucial role to play in policing the waterways.
While commending the former Flag Officer Commanding, Rear Adm. Olutoyin Johnson, for serving the state creditably, he assured the successor of government‚Äôs continuous support.
Usman, who assumed duties about three weeks ago, has already gone on a familiarisation tour of formations under his command.
He stressed the navy‚Äôs determination to combat oil theft and other criminal activities in line with the Federal Government‚Äôs mandate.