The Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Umo Eno, and the Chief of Naval Staff, Vice Admiral Emmanuel Ogalla, have inaugurated 14 patrol gunboats to tackle maritime insecurity in the state.
The gunboats were procured by the state government as take-off assets for its newly created Ministry of Internal Security and Waterways.
Speaking at the Nigerian Naval Ship Base at Ikot Abasi, NNS Jubilee Jetty, where the patrol boats were inaugurated on Friday, Eno reiterated his determination to boost maritime security on the waterways in line with the fourth aspiration of his administration’s ARISE Agenda.
Eno said, “This event is a milestone, in our determined and focused efforts to secure our waterways, protect our critical economic assets and combat some unwholesome activities along our coastline.
“With the 14 gunboats, this programme will also mitigate the activities of pirates and other criminal elements within the coastal communities.
“This, no doubt, will boost our blue economy, water transportation, within and with neighbouring states, while improving the livelihood of our people, living within the coastal communities.”
Eno, who commended the existing synergy between the Nigerian Navy and other security agencies, with the state government, stressed that the waterways operation will be a joint task force led by the Nigerian Navy, with support from sister agencies and some locals with good understanding of the maritime environment, who may be profiled through the Ibom Community Watch programme and co-opted into operations.
He added, “Let me emphasise here that these operations will be led by the Nigerian Navy, with support from people who understand the maritime environment and the coastal communities. These people will eventually be integrated into the Ibom Community Watch.”
He reiterated his campaign promises of exploring the blue economy potential of the state and making a tourist haven out of the coastal communities.
He said his administration would spare no effort and resources to curb all sorts of insecurity on the waterways and ensure a peaceful ambience for legitimate businesses to thrive in the riverine areas.
The governor reaffirmed his commitment to bringing back the ancient fun memories of marine transportation and other economic activities along the coastline.
“We promised during our campaigns that we would turn our coastline towns, such as Oron, Ibeno, Eastern Obolo, Ikot Abasi, and the rest of them, into tourism havens and boost economic activities in these areas. We are determined to develop all parts of our dear state and create jobs for our teaming youths,” the governor affirmed.
In his remarks, the CNS described Eno’s venture to explore the blue economy as visionary, given the potential of the sector in boosting the economy of Akwa Ibom State and Nigeria as a whole.
He added that the procurement of the 14 patrol boats was an indication of the state government’s seriousness in making the maritime environment safe for business and, therefore, assured stakeholders of the commitment of the Navy to ensure the state gets the best of security.
He warned criminal elements who may still be hiding in the area to desist from their nefarious activities, declaring the state’s coastline a no-crime zone.
Earlier in his remarks, the state Commissioner for Internal Security and Waterways, General Koko Essien (retd.), said the Akwa Ibom coastline, besides its long stretch of over 129km, has many adjourning rivers emptying into it and providing safe areas for criminals.
He said that the launch of the 14 patrol boats would signal the collapse of the business for waterways criminals, as the government would stop at nothing to dislodge them and ensure they face the wrath of the law.